Maureen Chao, US diplomat, enrolls in class after 'racist remark'

U.S. diplomat Maureen Chao enrolled in a cultural sensitivity class after she made a comment deemed deeply racist by Indians, the Hindustan Times reports.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters Thursday that Chao, who is Vice-Consul at the U.S. consulate in Chennai, "voluntarily enrolled in a
cross-cultural communications and understanding class."

Chao came under fire last week when she delivered a speech in Chennai. While recalling a train ride in India two decades ago, she said, "I was on a 24-hour train trip from Delhi to Orissa. But, after 72 hours, the train still did not reach the destination... and my skin became dirty and dark like the Tamilians."

Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalitha demanded an apology from Chao, who reportedly did express her regret for making the statement.

The Consulate replied to the chief minister in a statement: "During the speech Chao made an inappropriate comment. Chao deeply regrets if her unfortunate remarks offended anyone, as that was certainly not her intent."

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Nuland said Chao's comment "did not reflect the best of American values in terms of tolerance for difference and diversity,” the Press Trust of India reports.

A blog in the Los Angeles Times questions whether Chao's comment was racist or just a poorly worded gaffe. It says Chao is a "former Fulbright scholar who has worked with foster children, refugees and low-income and homeless populations around the world" and may not be accustomed to having every word scrutinized.