NBC apologizes after a Winter Olympics analyst’s comments set off a firestorm

Share David Choi Feb 13th 2018 5:01AM NBC’s Olympic Asian analyst Joshua Cooper Ramo made comments that many people viewed as culturally insensitive during the Winter Olympics.The network has issued an apology, and said in a statement that Ramo “will have no further role on our air.” An NBC commentator was taken off the air over some remarks he made that were deemed insensitive to Japan-South Korean relations. 

The network said Joshua Cooper Ramo was dismissed after he said “every Korean will tell you that Japan is a cultural, technological, and economic example, has been so important to their own transformation.” His comments were seen an inflammatory to many South Koreans and foreign-policy experts.

NBC was quick to issue apologies to the Olympic committee and the South Korean population, according to the New York Post. And even though the network had more plans to use Joshua Cooper Ramo throughout the rest of the Olympics coverage, that decision was instantly rethought, and Ramo was soon fired. Considering the ceremony telecast was on a 14-hour delay due to the time differences, someone probably should have been able to catch the comments before they were revealed to the world, and then handled Ramo’s situation behind closed doors. But that obviously didn’t happen.

Ramo did however acknowledge that Japan “occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945.”

Joshua Cooper Ramo has many years behind him in the public eye, working for both Newsweek and Time before making bigger moves in the business world. He’s currently the co-CEO for Kissinger Associates, is on the Board of Directors for both Starbucks and Federal Express, and has written a pair of New York Times bestselling books about emerging global shifts. He’s perhaps not the kind of person one would expect to incite an international uproar over comments such as these.

NBC apologizes to South Koreans for analyst’s remark

NBC responded to the backlash in a statement to Reuters: “Joshua Cooper Ramo has completed his responsibilities for NBC in Pyeongchang, and will have no further role on our air,” an NBC spokesman told the news wire service.

For the PyeongChang Games, businessman and former journalist Joshua Cooper Ramo returned to NBC Sports to reprise the analyst position he took on for the Beijing Games back in 2008. That opening telecast actually won Ramo an Emmy and a Peabody award, which were shared with Bob Costas and Matt Lauer. But here, the former journalist offered some award-unworthy comments by saying the following as multi-cultural athletes entered the stadium:

Japan’s occupation of the Korean Peninsula was marked with humanitarian atrocities ranging from forced prostitution of Korean women to forced labor. Though relations between the two nations have arguably improved, Japan’s occupation still remains a provocative subject for many South Koreans, particularly among the older generation. Disputes over its shared past are still a point of contention today.

NBC's Olympics Asian Analyst Joshua Cooper Ramo says having the next three Olympics in Korea, Japan and China is an "opportunity to experience all of the Asian cultures." @NBCOlympics, maybe next time hire an Asian Analyst that knows Asia has more than three cultures???

Japan forces occupied the Korean peninsula for 35 years through the duration of both World Wars, with many reported atrocities happening during that span, and the nations have shared a less-than-heartwarming relationship ever since. Thus, Joshua Cooper Ramo’s words were entirely off the mark, and it’s no surprise that a swift backlash went into effect soon after they were aired around the world.

Can no longer access @NBCOlympics IG from Korea. Lots of backlash here b/c commentator Joshua Cooper Ramo reportedly said, "Every Korean will tell you that Japan is a cultural and technological and economic example that has been so important to their own transformation." pic.twitter.com/E3wqyt32n8

NBC Sports still has lots of other analysts, commentators and personalities around to cover the rest of the PyeongChang Games, so be sure to tune into NBC and its many other networks for full coverage. Check out one Olympian who is garnering much better headlines than Ramo, if the Olympics aren’t your thing, head to our midseason premiere schedule to see when everything else is starting up soon.

Severalonline petitions with thousands of supporters have surfaced amid the criticism.

“Any reasonable person familiar with the history of Japanese imperialism, and the atrocities it committed before and during WWII, would find such statement deeply hurtful and outrageous,” a petition with over 15,900 supporters said. “And no, no South Korean would attribute the rapid growth and transformation of its economy, technology, and political/cultural development to the Japanese imperialism.”

Ramo, a former journalist at Time magazine, is co-CEO at Kissinger Associates and had been hired temporarily by NBC to bring historical context to its coverage. The network said his assignment ended with the opening ceremony. It disputed reports that Ramo had been fired.

The Pyeongchang Organizing Committee said that it “informed NBC of the errors in their commentary and the sensitivity of the subject in Korea,” according to Reuters.

NBC Sports anchor Carolyn Manno issued a statement for Ramo’s comments following the public backlash:

“We believe that staying silent is not an appropriate response to such ignorant, insensitive, and harmful information that defies the very spirit of peace, harmony, and human dignity of the Olympics,” it said.

“During our coverage of the Parade of Nations on Friday we said it was notable that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made the trip to Korea for the Olympics, ‘representing Japan, a country which occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945 but every Korean will tell you that Japan is a cultural, technological and economic example that has been so important to their own transformation.’ We understand the Korean people were insulted by these comments and we apologize.”

Ramo left the network after the Olympic opening ceremony. Though media reports suggested he was involuntarily fired, an NBC Sports executive reportedly noted that Ramo was contracted only for the opening ceremony and that his employment came to a natural end.

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An online petition quickly circulated demanding an apology, and NBC did on its NBCSN cable network Saturday and formally to the Pyeongchang Olympic organizing committee.

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NEW YORK (AP) — Highlights from media coverage of the Pyeongchang Olympics:

SORRY: NBC apologized to South Korea for a remark by analyst Joshua Cooper Ramo on Friday’s coverage of the opening ceremony. Ramo credited Japan as an influence for South Korea’s resurgence over the past three decades. That angered many South Koreans with memories of Japan as an occupying force from 1910 to 1945. Ramo, a former journalist hired temporarily for his expertise on the area, won’t be back on NBC’s Olympic broadcasts; the network said Sunday his assignment ended with the opening ceremony.

MOVIN’ MIKE: Maybe the hallmark of Mike Tirico as NBC’s prime-time host is his movement. After opening Thursday night on a set that seemed borrowed from a bad science-fiction movie, on Saturday he was on a homey set that looked like a ski lodge. On Sunday, he traveled to the ice skating arena to anchor the show, enabling some face time with Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir. If NBC gets mad at Tirico, they can send him to the top of a mountain on a 6-degree day.

SKATING SHOW: So far, so good for Lipinski and Weir in their first Olympics as NBC’s lead skating analysts. They’ve been solid, with less of the “look at me!” vibe of Sochi. The two have done their homework, yet they haven’t forgotten that many of their viewers watch skating infrequently. Neither is afraid to be critical, and Thursday’s disaster-filled opening was described exactly as it was. Enthusiasm for American Adam Rippon on Sunday didn’t sound like cheerleading because it was backed by specifics. “He has a boisterous personality but this program is all about his skating,” Weir said. “He really lets his blades speak for him.”

SPEECHLESS: “The luge world will be speechless!” NBC’s Leigh Diffey said after two-time gold medalist Felix Loch of Germany muffed his last run to miss the medal podium . “I am speechless,” analyst Duncan Kennedy then said. Well, you want enthusiastic announcers, right? Diffey had one nifty moment when he described how Loch’s father and coach, a former Olympian himself, had “taken off his coach’s hat to console his son.”

RATINGS: An estimated 21.4 million viewers watched NBC’s prime-time coverage on Saturday night, with the number increasing to 24.2 million when consumption on the digital live stream and NBCSN cable network are added. Both figures are down from the 25.1 million who watched the corresponding Saturday in Sochi four years ago. But it was a better showing than the first Saturday night from the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro two years ago. NBC’s dominance of the TV landscape was thorough: ABC, CBS and Fox had a combined 6.1 million viewers for their prime-time fare.

LONG SKI: NBC’s team of Al Trautwig and Chad Salmela set the stage and smartly conveyed the drama when Norwegian Simen Hegstad Krueger came back to win the 30-kilometer cross-country skiathlon after falling on the first lap. Amateur psychology isn’t their thing, though. Salmela noted at one point that Norway’s Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo looked like he was struggling physically, “but I think he’s faking it” to deke opponents. Apparently not, since Klaebo finished way out of the running.


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