In a speech at the SRM University, US vice-consul Maureen Chao had said: "I was on a 24-hour train trip from Delhi to Orissa. But, after 72 hours, the train still did not reach the destination... and my skin became dirty and dark like the Tamilians."
The US diplomat was recalling a visit to India she had made two decades ago when she was a student. In the speech Chao had also said, "Some 20 years ago, I was a student like you and had an opportunity to do a semester abroad. I chose to come to India, fascinated by the culture and religion.
I travelled across villages to understand the culture better. I was amazed at the graciousness and friendliness of the people."
Going into damage-control mode following her controversial remarks, the US Consulate had said in a release, "
''Yesterday at a Study Abroad Orientation Program at SRM University, Vice Consul Maureen Chao gave a speech describing positive memories from her own study abroad experiences in India 23 years ago. During the speech Ms. Chao made an inappropriate comment. Ms. Chao deeply regrets if her unfortunate remarks offended anyone, as that was certainly not her intent.
''As Secretary Clinton recently noted, the US-India partnership is based on our shared values of democracy, liberty, and respect for religious and cultural diversity. The US Consulate in Chennai and the US Mission in India are committed to upholding these shared values.''
The apology was not enough to assuage everyone. The Communist Party of India (CPI) demanded the withdrawal of Ms Chao for her "racist"comments on Tamils. They asked the government to lodge a "strong protest" with the US in this regard.