The U.S. State Department has stepped into a controversy surrounding a gag Jay Leno delivered during his opening monologue on NBC’s “Tonight Show,” the BBC reports.
Meanwhile, Deadline.com reported that a lawsuit has been filed against Leno and NBC in connection with the incident.
The State Department defended Leno and the joke, which offended some viewers by displaying the Golden Temple in Amritsar, a site that is holy to Sikhs, in place of Mitt Romney’s summer house, reports the BBC.
As previously reported, overseas Indian affairs minister Vayalar Ravi said he planned to take up the issue with U.S. State Department and called the joke "quite objectionable" after it aired during last Thursday’s broadcast. Click here to see video of the bit, with the disclaimer that NBC appears to be taking steps to remove the footage from the Internet.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Leno’s comments are "constitutionally protected in the United States under free speech and, frankly, they appeared to be satirical in nature," according to the BBC story. She added that the U.S. has "absolute respect" for all Indians.
Leno hasn’t yet commented on the incident, the story notes.
Separately, Randeep Dhillon of Bakersfield filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Leno and NBC, alleging libel, Deadline.com reports. The suit charges that the broadcast exposed Sikhs to hatred, contempt and ridicule because it alleged the holy shrine was a vacation resort owned by a non-Sikh, the story notes.