Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Cingular pulls "La Migra" ringtone
By Chris Mahon
The Brownsville Herald

Cingular Wireless has removed a ringtone listed for sale on its Web site called "La Migra" and apologized for its offensive nature. In it, a siren is heard, followed by a male voice that says in a southern accent: “Calmate, calmate, this is la migra. Por favor, put the oranges down and step away from the cell phone. I repeat-o, put the oranges down and step away from the telephone-o. I’m deporting you back home-o.”

Walt Sharp, a spokesman for AT&T, part owner of Cingular, would not immediately comment on the product.“Let me do some inquiring,” he said after listening to it. Latino issues activists from Brownsville to Washington, D.C. were outraged Tuesday, when they learned Cingular was selling what they considered a racist product.“It’s horribly offensive and a disgusting thing,” said Brent Wilkes, national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens.The ringtone was no longer available at 5:45 p.m.

After learning about the ringtone, Wilkes said he called AT&T Inc., named “America’s Most Admired Telecommunications Company” by Fortune magazine in February, demanding it be taken off the Web site.

Cingular officials seemed to be caught off guard by their own Web site’s content.Mark Siegel, the company’s spokesman was nearly speechless after listening to the $2.49 ringtone.“Oh my goodness, oh my goodness,” he said.

Like AT&T’s Walt Sharp, Siegel said he needed to do some research on the ringtone before offering comments.In a later interview Tuesday, Siegel said, “We’re in the process of pulling the ringtone and needless to say, we deeply regret and apologize for it ever being there in the first place. The ringtone is blatantly offensive.” Siegel said the company is reviewing its process of screening ringtones which are created by “a combination of companies that we work with and in-house (staff). But ultimately, Cingular is accountable for it.”

LULAC’s Brent Wilkes was pleased with the company’s apology and that it removed the product from its Web site, but there were still larger issues, he said.“I don’t think (bigotry) is an official corporate policy, but there’s a legitimate question about corporate America crossing the line.” Wilkes thought it was “hippocritical” for Cingular to have a Hispanic public relations department and boast of treating customers with respect, while at the same time selling a ringtone telling an immigrant to “put down the oranges.”
TALK BACK‘La Migra’ ringtone: Offensive or just off-color? What are your thoughts on the ‘La Migra’ ringtone pulled from the Cingular Wireless Web site Tuesday?


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