By Tal Kopan/ POLITICO
Ade Adefuye, Nigerian Ambassador to the US
The Nigerian ambassador to the United States on Thursday decried Sen. Ted Cruz’s joke earlier this week that “Nigerian email scammers” built the government’s health care exchange website, saying his comments are offensive and demanded an apology.
Ambassador Ade Adefuye told POLITICO that Nigerians are “disappointed and shocked” by Cruz’s comments.
“We deplore the statement, and we demand an apology, and we demand it be withdrawn,” Adefuye said.
Cruz (R-Texas) made the remarks Monday night in Houston at a “Welcome Home” event with tea party supporters. The following day, Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) criticized the comments and said they appeal to a “backward” part of Cruz’s base that believes the president is from Africa.
Adefuye said he was surprised when Cruz did not deny the “offensive” remarks, adding that it’s inappropriate for a senator to disparage an entire country to score political points.
“It is unfair of any senator to essentially use citizens that are law abiding, to use Nigerians as cannon fodder,” Adefuye said. “We recognize that we have efforts on the part of Sen. Cruz to appeal to some animus in his domestic base. In the course of doing that, to allow him to ridicule a country and its citizens is completely over the top. He should not denigrate Nigerians in order to appease these domestic constituents.”
Speaking to POLITICO from Nigeria, Adefuye said the country is aware of Cruz’s comments and “angered” by them. He said Nigerians are good people who should not be made fun of for a joke.
“Many people from Nigeria are making meaningful contributions to American society, and Nigerians are very law abiding and making contributions to their host community,” Adefuye said. “It was a joke that went too far, and we demand an apology.”
A spokeswoman for Cruz said the comments were made in jest and were not intended to impugn Nigerians as a people.
“The senator meant no offense. He was making a joke based on the official term of a commonly utilized type of scam, referenced often by the FBI, security firms and various news sites,” Catherine Frazier said.
The FBI identifies “Nigerian letter fraud” on its website describing common fraud schemes, saying it involves a letter sent from Nigeria offering to share profits if the recipient helps a self-proclaimed government official transfer funds out of the country.
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