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Talk show host quits over racial word

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Radio talk show host Morton Downey Jr. used the word 'Chinaman' during on air-joke, then later apologized and resigned his job.

'I would not have told a Jewish joke in New York City because I have a sensitivity to the Jewish community there,' said Downey, of radio station KFBK.

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'I had no sensitivity to the Asian community.'

Downey disclosed his resignation at a news conference Friday at which he appeared close to tears.

Downey's joke during his morning show Thursday was heard by City Councilman Thomas Chinn, of Chinese descent. He telephoned Downey to protest, and Downey defended the use of the word.

'For the last 25 years we have opposed the word as a public insult - it implies a second class citizen,' Chinn said. 'A person in public communications should know that. This is 1984, not 1920.'

'I have to honestly tell you I did not think that was a derogatory term,' said Downey, who was once married to a Chinese-American woman by whom he has two daughters.

The KFBK management earlier Friday announced it was suspending Downey for one day. The resignation followed a meeting Friday evening among Downey, KFBK general manager Paul Aaron and program director Norman Woodruff.

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'There was an avalanche of phone calls, an avalanche of response to what I've done,' Downey said. 'I have committed the cardinal sin of making myself the issue.'

He said the station did not ask for his resignation.

The talk show, with a conservative political orientation, had been on the air for four months.

'Obviously he has done what he has to do,' Chinn said. 'I suppose he recognizes that he has become more of a liability than an asset to the station and the community. I'm sorry he caused it to happen.'

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