CHICAGO - An Illinois recruiting manager sent an email that said “me love you long time” to an Asian American female job candidate, sparking backlash against the company.
Connie Cheung, a Chinese American woman who lives in Florida, was applying for a Office Manager Marketing Assistant position with Chicago Search Group, a recruiting company.
She was shocked to receive an email last Tuesday that said, “Me love you long time....” She posted a screenshot of the message on her Facebook page.
The email appeared to be forwarded from James McMahon, vice president of the company, to Brian Haugh, the president, but it was accidentally sent to Cheung. McMahon and Haugh’s LinkedIn profile showed that they are both recruiting managers.
In the 1987 film, “Full Metal Jacket,” a Vietnamese prostitute says the words to a U.S. soldier. The line has since become an offensive phrase with racist and sexist connotations.
“I know that phrase is meant to tie Asian women to sex, that's why in the movie the woman who says it is an Asian sex worker. Those types of phrases are also used to mock Asian accents,” Cheung said.
In another Facebook post, Cheung wrote that her friend emailed Haugh to stand up for her and then posted a screenshot of Haugh’s email response.
“With all due respect, I am focused on bigger problems than your friend being offended by a movie quote,” Haugh said. “Sorry, but just don’t have time for this. Best of luck to you!! You may want to google libel laws before your crew posts things publicly. Our attorneys are on call...”
Cheung said she never saw the movie but “only came in contact with phrases like that as racial slurs. I've gotten racial slurs like that thrown at me in high school and for me it was always racial never just a movie quote.”
Shortly after Haugh’s email was sent, McMahon called her to apologize and “explain that the quote he used regarding me was from a movie,” Cheung said.
“Regardless if it was from a movie, it doesn't justify that this phrase has been used to demean Asian women for decades and that this phrase was emailed from someone's work email to a coworker in regards to a potential employee, who happened to be an Asian American female,” Cheung wrote in the Facebook post.
McMahon said that he apologized to Cheung.
"I called Connie to apologize directly to her," McMahon said. "This was an isolated incident that will not happen again and my sincerest apologies go out to Connie and anyone else who was offended by this statement. ... I realize that it was an incredibly insensitive comment. It was intended for my business partner of over a decade who was also my college roommate."
"This does not excuse or justify anything. However, imagine if everyone had every inappropriate comment or poor joke that was typed, texted or spoken available for the public to see. It is a reminder for all of us that we should communicate with anyone as if everyone was listening," McMahon said. "To be clear, this was wrong, there is no excuse and the appropriate measure will be taken as a consequence. We have a zero tolerance policy for this sort of behavior. I have also apologized to our entire team and will lead the way in ensuring this never happens again."
Cheung confirmed that McMahon did call and apologize about the phrase.
“I felt it was insincere, but I thanked him for calling me to apologize,” Cheung said. “I also asked him if this type of behavior was condoned in his office and he stated that it wasn't, but it obviously must be if he didn't receive any type of punishment and Brian even got on the offense towards my friend in regards to it.”
The company’s website appeared to be taken down.
This story was reported from Los Angeles.