Two radio hosts in New Jersey, who called America's first Sikh-American Attorney General Gurbir Grewal "turban man" on air, have apologised for their racist remarks and have been slapped with a 10-day suspension for using "demeaning and inappropriate" language.
Dennis Malloy and Judi Franco, who host the "Dennis and Judi Show" on NJ 101.5FM, were talking about Grewal's decision to suspend marjiuana prosecutions in New Jersey when they repeatedly called him the "turban man" on Thursday.
In the remarks termed as "xenophobic and racist", Malloy had said he was never going to know Grewal's name and will instead just call him "guy with a turban".
As the audio of their show went viral, the radio hosts drew widespread criticism for their remarks against the state's top law enforcement official.
Malloy issued an apology on Franco's and his behalf in a video message.
"On behalf of Judy and myself, I want to convey our very heartfelt apology to the state attorney general of New Jersey for the comments that came out on our show.
"He certainly deserves much more respect than that and importantly to the Sikh and South Asian community of New Jersey with which we've had a very strong and close relationship with over the past 20 years," Malloy said.
The radio staton announced that it had suspended the pair for 10 days, and they will not be on air until August 6.
New Jersey 101.5/WKXW-FM president Ron deCastro said in a statement that the station took the comments "seriously" and echo the pair's sincere apology to Grewal and his family, as well as the Sikh and Asian communities.
"Dennis and Judi are known for their plainspoken brand of humor, but in this case, the language used was clearly demeaning and inappropriate. New Jersey is a state that is rich in diversity, and our radio station has served as the people's voice for nearly 30 years," deCastro said.
The station will use the incident as a "learning moment" to further a dialogue of inclusiveness for all residents of the state.
Malloy said in a statement on the station's website that their show had been unscripted and free form and they use humour and sarcasm to make a point and add colour to the broadcast.
"In this instance, we were off the mark. It was a mistake we both deeply regret. We respect all cultures and beliefs and are deeply sorry for the pain caused to the Sikh community, our co-workers and our beloved listeners," Malloy said.
He said they cherished the relationship they have with the Sikh and South Again communities.
"We feel very bad for any hurt that we may have caused or undue attention that they certainly didn't want or ask for," Malloy said.
Hours after the radio hosts made the comments, Grewal, 44, posted on Twitter that he had faced such "indignity" before and called on people to end small-minded intolerance.
"This is not the first indignity I've faced and it probably won't be the last. Sometimes, I endure it alone. Yesterday, all of New Jersey heard it. It's time to end small-minded intolerance," Grewal tweeted on Thursday.
Grewal, who was previously Bergen County Prosecutor, became the nation's first Sikh state attorney general after the state Senate approved his nomination this year.
Grewalis born to Indian immigrant parents in Jersey City and was raised in the state's Hudson and Bergen counties.
In a sharp response, Grewal later tweeted, "My name, for the record, is Gurbir Grewal. I'm the 61st Attorney General of NJ. I'm a Sikh-American. I have 3 daughters. And yesterday, I told them to turn off the radio".
Several top state government officials and advocacy groups rallied behind Grewal, extending their support and expressing outrage against the show's hosts for their remarks.
Grewal thanked New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla, Senate President of New Jersey Steve Sweeney and US Senator from New Jersey Cory Booker for their support.
"You've got my back ? and the backs of all New Jerseyans. Others have faced far worse. We rise above this. Now let's get back to business," Grewal said.
Murphy, who had appointed Grewal, had strongly condemned the language of the radio hosts, demanding action by the station.
Twitter users too slammed the racist remarks saying there is no place for such language.