Kawamura retracts skin color gaffe

by Masami Ito

Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura was quick to retract what could be considered a racist remark Friday over the color of late pop star Michael Jackson’s skin.

During a news conference Friday morning, the media reported a news flash on Jackson’s death, and Kawamura was asked by a reporter to comment on his passing.

Admitting that he was not very familiar with either Jackson or his songs, Kawamura expressed regret over the sudden tragedy, and went on to reveal that he had seen the late singer at former South Korean President Kim Dae Jung’s inauguration in 1998.

“I had extremely little knowledge (about Jackson) but I remember he looked completely white and I did not get the impression that he was black at all,” Kawamura said.

Later during the same news conference, Kawamura withdrew his statement, saying it could cause “misunderstanding.”

His words “must not be (considered) a discriminatory remark,” Kawamura said. “That was not my intention at all . . . please let me retract it.

“It was extremely regrettable that such a major star met with an untimely death,” Kawamura said.

Unlike Prime Minister Taro Aso, who has been repeatedly criticized for his verbal gaffes, the soft-spoken Kawamura is usually more careful, often attempting to explain and excuse his boss’ slips of the tongue.