*The disrespect of President Barack Obama continues as a Channel 4 News (in the UK) presenter finds himself in hot water over a racially insensitive remark while covering the Pope’s visit to the US on Wednesday (Sept. 23)
The Daily Mail reports the remark in question came from Channel 4 News Europe Editor Matt Frei who said that Obama ‘smiled like a split watermelon’ during a meeting with the Pope. Soon after it was made, the remark triggered a swift backlash from offended and angry viewers.
Realizing the damage done, Frei quickly took to Twitter to apologize for what he said, pointing out that he wasn’t aware of the fact that watermelon is often considered a symbol of racism towards black people in America, a long-held stereotype of the fruit being a favorite food among blacks.
“I apologise to those upset by my description of President Obama’s smile on tonight’s programme,” Frei tweeted while stating that he wasn’t aware of racist undertone associated with what he said. .
“It was intended as an entirely innocent phrase that apparently has a history I simply wasn’t aware of. Honestly no offence intended.”
Despite his apology, his comment still struck a sour chord with his fellow Twitter users.
British former NBA player John Amaechi wrote: ‘I’m sorry, did Channel 4 News just say Obama was “smiling like a split watermelon”? British former NBA player John Amaechi wrote. “WTF. No. Just no. How does that get past editorial?!’ “
After seeing Frei’s apology, things looked to have been smoothed over with Amaechi, who tweeted “Clearly @mattfrei meant no harm… But let’s stick with “grinning like a Cheshire Cat” in future!! ;-)”
Nevertheless, Frei still rubbed many the wrong way as users brought up Frei’s work prior to being Europe Editor for Channel 4 News. The station’s biography of Frei on its website states the reporter worked as “the Washington Correspondent for two years and has reported on the Americas on everything from business and culture to US foreign policy and its view of the world.” In addition the Daily Mail reports that Frei life before Channel 4 included a stint anchoring the BBC World News America bulletin.
“It was very offensive! You spent years in America. Ridiculous!’, “ Meredith Wheeler tweeted, later adding, “Ask yourself, would you have said President Bush smiled like a split watermelon!? Really shameful. The truth will out.”
Accusations of Frei using a racial slur surfaced as the reporter was put on the spot with those wondering why he would even go there.
“Dear @MattFrei why would you use the offensive ‘smile like a split watermelon’ when referring to any black man, let alone Obama?” Susie M. wrote
To hear Matt Frei’s “split watermelon” remark, click the player below: