CNBC Reporter Accused of 'Offensive' Slur in Report About Wendi Deng (Video)

6:18 PM PST 07/30/2013 by Paul Bond
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Wendi Deng

"What do you think the chink in the armor here might be?" Robert Frank asks a guest during a discussion of Deng, an Asian American who is divorcing Rupert Murdoch.

CNBC reporter Robert Frank is under fire for using the phrase “chink in the armor” during a discussion about Wendi Deng’s impending divorce from media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

The phrase, which once got an ESPN headline writer fired after he used it in a story about NBA player Jeremy Lin, is “offensive,” a representative from the Asian American Journalists Association told Media Matters for America, a progressive watchdog group.

Deng, like Lin, are of Asian decent and “chink” can be construed as a derogatory term for them, even when used to describe an imperfection in armor, according Media Matters and the AAJA.

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On Tuesday during CNBC’s Power Lunch, Frank was discussing Deng’s hiring of a new lawyer to represent her in her divorce from Murdoch, the CEO of  21st Century Fox and executive chairman of News Corp, when he asked a guest: “What do you think the chink in the armor here might be?”

Hours later, Media Matters fired off an email to journalists nationwide that detailed the exchange and cited the AAJA’s media watch chair Bobby Caina Calvan, who said he has reached out to CNBC to help the business network identify “words that many of us feel are offensive.”

The Media Matters email also says that, while Calvan acknowledged Frank’s question may have been “spoken innocently,” he also called it a “no brainer” that the phrase should never be used when discussing Asian Americans.

Calvan said Frank used “an unfortunate phrasing and people should know better in this day and age that a phrase like that, that I’m not going to repeat, is offensive to many of us.”

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A CNBC spokesperson said that if Frank's question sounded offensive it was “totally unintentional.” See the CNBC video below.

In February, 2012, the AAJA criticized ESPN, a unit of the Walt Disney Co., for using “chink in the armor” in an online headline in a story about Lin, and also after anchor Max Bretos used the term on air. The sports network fired the headline writer and suspended Bretos for 30 days.

Email: Paul.Bond@THR.com

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