Jay Leno’s now-infamous Mitt Romney joke has spurred a lawsuit, formal complaints, hurt feelings, an avalanche of commentary and, today, a motion in the British Parliament. Last week, Leno performed a Tonight Show bit that showed a photo of a building cited as “Mitt Romney’s summer home.” In reality, it was an image of the Sikh holy shrine Golden Temple in Amritsar, India. On Tuesday, Leno and NBC were sued for libel in California over the matter, and now British Labour Party lawmakers Virendra Shrama and John McDonnell are seeking an apology from Leno and NBC to all Sikhs “for this disrespectful depiction of the Golden Temple.” The MPs are also calling for Prime Minister David Cameron’s government to “make representations to the U.S. government that while recognising principles of freedom of speech there should be more understanding and respect shown to the Sikh faith.” The full motion:
Jay Leno thought he was poking gentle fun at the lifestyles of rich and famous Republican presidential candidates — Mitt Romney in particular. But last Thursday when Leno’s slide show came to a location cited as Mitt Romney’s summer home — in reality an image of the Sikh holy shrine Golden Temple in Amritsar, India — it sparked a diplomatic incident. And now, a lawsuit charging Leno and NBC with libel.
Dr. Randeep Dhillon of Bakersfield filed the suit today in Los Angeles Superior Court. On behalf of himself and Bol Punjabi All Regions Community Organization, the suit charges that the broadcast was libelous on its face and exposed Sikhs and their religion to hatred, contempt and ridicule because it portrayed the holiest place in the Sikh religion as a vacation resort owned by a non-Sikh. The suit charges that Leno’s use of the photo of the temple was intentional, deliberately false and “hurt the sentiments of all Sikh people in addition to those of the plaintiff.” The suit seeks general, special and punitive damages as well as court costs. It appears that video of the segment in question has been removed from NBC’s website.
Separately, Sikh leader Dalbeg Singh said today community leaders would seek an apology from Leno. India’s foreign ministry said a formal complaint had been lodged with the State Department in Washington.