WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The Hispanic community, angered by the burning of a Puerto Rican flag on the hit sitcom “Seinfeld,” complained Friday that Latinos only appeared on U.S. television as caricatures and the butt of jokes.
Puerto Rican leaders said the “desecrating” of their flag was an insult and threatened to sue NBC unless it apologized publicly in next week’s final episode of the country’s most popular sitcom.
The series finale was taped weeks ago.
In Thursday’s episode — the second to last — Jerry’s kooky neighbor, Kramer, played by Michael Richards, accidentally sets fire to a flag during the annual Puerto Rican parade in Manhattan, and is chased by a mob that vandalizes Jerry’s car.
“Did Seinfeld run out of ideas that he had to stoop so low as to burn a flag to get a laugh?” Manuel Mirabal, president of the National Puerto Rican Coalition, asked at a news conference.
NBC apologized, saying it did not feel the irreverent comedy lent itself to any damaging ethnic stereotypes.
“The audience of ‘Seinfeld’ knows that the humor is derived from watching the core group of characters get themselves into difficult situations,” NBC said in a statement.
“Our appreciation of the broad comedy of ‘Seinfeld’ does not in any way take away from the respect we have for the Puerto Rican flag,” said NBC president Robert Wright.
But Mirabal said the apology did not go far enough.
“We want a public apology on the show next week,” Mirabal said.