Chinese-Americans from around the Southeast demonstrated in Atlanta April 26 to demand the firing of CNN commentator Jack Cafferty in the wake of his critical remarks about China during a broadcast early last month. News reports said hundreds of professionals, students and businesspeople gathered outside the network’s headquarters, decrying what have been described as racially charged comments Mr. Cafferty made on CNN’s “The Situation Room” program April 9.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that crowds chanted “CNN Liar!” and “Cafferty Fire!” while lining both sides of a street between the CNN Center and Centennial Olympic Park.

The protestors waved Chinese flags and signs with various anti-CNN slogans as a plane overhead flew a banner that read, “Go Olympics! CNN Stop Bashing Chinese!!!”

The protests were a sign of the simmering dissatisfaction among Chinese all around the world with a perceived Western bias against their country in media coverage of unrest in Tibet and the subsequent Olympic torch protests.

China has also become a target for politicians, most notably as both Democratic presidential candidates have called for President Bush to boycott the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Mr. Cafferty lit this ready fuse in his response to a question about the development of U.S. relations in China. The trade relationship has evolved, but he’s not sure China has changed much, he said.

He noted that the U.S. faces billions of dollars in trade deficits with China and that Asian nation holds an extensive pool of U.S. currency reserves. The country wants to export its “junk with the lead paint on them” and “poisonous pet food” to the U.S. and take jobs away from Americans with its low-cost manufacturing, he said.

The most inflammatory comment came near the end of the diatribe, when he said, “I think they’re basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they’ve been for the last 50 years.”

While Mr. Cafferty later said that he was referring to China’s Communist government, not its people, many Chinese-Americans took offense at the comments and said his clarification shouldn’t exonerate him from disciplinary action.

Atlanta’s Association of Chinese Professionals, which helped organize the rally by bringing together 23 area organizations, released a statement saying that Mr. Cafferty’s “remarks clearly exposed his hatred and bigotry against Chinese people as a whole group.”

CNN has released a statement saying that it was neither the network’s nor Mr. Cafferty’s intention to insult or anger the Chinese people, “and [CNN] would apologize to anyone who has interpreted the comments in this way.”

Julin Gu, president of the association, said he harbors no resentment toward CNN but thinks the network should have made a more firm response by taking Cafferty off the air for good.

“His wording is misleading and a lot of people will read the transcripts and get a bad image of Chinese people,” Mr. Gu told GlobalAtlanta, emphasizing his concern for the feelings of the Atlanta Chinese community.

Tim Xia, a China native and partner at Atlanta law firm Morris, Manning and Martin LLP, said CNN’s incomplete apology was an “insult to the intelligence of Chinese people” and worse than if the network had not apologized at all.

Mr. Xia heads his firm’s China practice and has taken part in trips with Georgia officials making appeals to Chinese businesses. He worries that the efforts of Gov. Sonny Perdue and many others to attract Chinese companies to Georgia will be tarnished if the network doesn’t respond appropriately.

He said that he and many other Chinese have in the past expressed “hometown pride” in the news network while telling overseas clients about their state. That positive association could break if CNN doesn’t tread carefully.

“This great international news organization should not be held hostage by a single guy’s unprofessional comments,” Mr. Xia told GlobalAtlanta.

Lani Wong, chair of the National Assocation of Chinese-Americans, Atlanta Chapter, doesn’t think what she called “racist” comments will hurt Georgia’s efforts to court Chinese businesses.

“I think Chinese people are pretty fair-minded, and this incident is just one representative from CNN; it’s not CNN as a whole organization,” said Ms. Wong, whose organization helped put the rally together.

As far as she is concerned, a sincere apology would mend the situation and help deter further discriminatory rants.

John Ray, chairman of the Georgia China Alliance and president of Heritage Capital Advisors LLC, wrote an editorial in the AJC recently deploring Mr. Cafferty’s remarks, saying they are indicative of a greater “fear of China that borders on paranoia.”

He argued that the China of the past is much worse than the one the U.S. deals with today. Trade, Mr. Ray wrote, is the greatest diplomatic tool the U.S. has with regard to China.

It’s also important to note, Mr. Xia said, that many of China’s products are exported to the U.S. by American companies.

“I feel disappointed that U.S. companies do not have the guts to stand up and say, ‘Chinese companies are making products for us to meet the demands’” of consumers, Mr. Xia said.

As far as Mr. Gu of the Association of Chinese Professionals knows, CNN has not issued a response to the protests.

If nothing is done before mid-May, he said his association will consider uniting with other communities across the country for further protests.

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...