Emily Rooney apologizes for ‘offensive remarks’ during ‘Beat the Press’ segment

"I have since received a lot of feedback, and now understand that my comments were uninformed, dismissive, and disrespectful."

17WGBH-ROONEY APOLOGY - Longtime WGBH-TV host Emily Rooney apologizes after accusations of Ôdemeaning and racist commentaryÕ on ÔBeat the PressÕ segment. (Credit: WGBH) Screenshot via YouTube

GBH host Emily Rooney apologized Friday for what she described as “offensive remarks” dismissing the work of an Asian-American filmmaker and other documentarians during a “Beat the Press” segment earlier this month.

The comments occurred during an April 2 panel discussion on the long-running media commentary show about criticism of PBS by a group of filmmakers who argued in an open letter that the public broadcaster’s “over-reliance” on legendary documentarian Ken Burns was shutting out more diverse voices. After fellow GBH host Callie Crossley expressed agreement with the criticism, Rooney argued that the complaint was out of “resentment that a white guy is getting all this much time.”

“I didn’t see ‘Asian Americans,'” Rooney added, referring to a PBS series whose producers signed the letter. “But there’s a possibility it wasn’t as good as some of Ken Burns’ films, too. You gotta throw that out there.”

Crossley noted that some of the people who signed the letter had received awards and various acclaim for their work, including Grace Lee, the Asian-American filmmaker whose essay on the “decades-long interdependence” between PBS and Burns had spurred the public back and forth.

“That doesn’t mean they’re all good,” Rooney replied.

In a taped apology posted Friday afternoon, Rooney said she had gotten “a lot of feedback” since the exchange.

“I have since received a lot of feedback, and now understand that my comments were uninformed, dismissive, and disrespectful,” she said in the 60-second video.

“While my intention was to offer further balance to the discussion, my comments did not accomplish that and, instead, I crossed the line,” Rooney continued. “I want to sincerely apologize for my offensive remarks.”


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