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Chuck Hagel Puts His Foot in His Mouth Chuck Hagel Puts His Foot in His Mouth

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Defense

Chuck Hagel Puts His Foot in His Mouth

Speaking at a university, the Defense secretary wonders aloud if an Indian is a member of the Taliban.

(AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)

Rule No. 894 of politics: Don't make off-the-cuff jokes about ethnic minorities.

It's so basic, but that doesn't stop some officials from violating this tenet of political correctness. On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel did just that.

Speaking at his alma mater, the University of Nebraska (Omaha), Hagel decided to take questions from the audience after his address.

 

"You're not a member of the Taliban, are you?" Hagel said to a man in the back. Turns out, he was speaking to Robin Gandhi, an assistant professor who is Indian.

After an awkward pause, likely getting a microphone to the professor, the two men conversed and the slipup wasn't mentioned.

(Skip to 56:40 to watch the exchange)

In a statement published on BuzzFeed, which discovered this clip, the Pentagon tried to clarify Hagel's comments: "Absolutely no slight toward any individual in the audience was intended. That's the last thing the secretary would do under any circumstance, in this or any other setting. He didn't know who would be called next to pose a question."

Hagel joins a long list of politicans who have made an off-color remark to a racial minority.

Go back to 2006, when former Sen. George Allen, R-Va., called an Indian-American man "macaca" twice at a campaign event.

"Let's give a welcome to macaca, here," Allen said. "Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia."

The man, S.R. Sidarth, was filming the campaign stop for Senate candidate Jim Webb, D-Va. Allen released a slew of apologies, but the gaff is in part blamed for his loss. Macaca was an epithet used by French colonialists in Africa, referring to the natives.

And the list continues.

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