The Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans (CANAN) and other groups have blasted Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) for what they say was a highly-offensive joke he made about Nigerians at an event in Houston on Monday.
Cruz, a vocal opponent of the Affordable Care Act, was talking about the reported glitches with the launching of the official website, and said:
"You may have noticed that all the Nigerian email scammers have become a lot less active lately… They all have been hired to run the Obamacare website."
The event, a Welcome Home gathering at King Street Patriots, drew over 1,000 supporters who cheered Cruz on when he promised to continue trying to take down Obamacare, according to the Houston Chronicle.
While the Republican Senator later insisted that his remarks were only a joke, a number of politicians and organizations have said that such comments should never have been made.
"The senator was making a joke based on the official term of a commonly utilized type of scam. He meant no offense," a spokesperson for Cruz has said, according to KTRK-TV.
CANAN insisted that regardless of whether it was a joke or not, it is "appalling and reprehensible that the good name and reputation of Nigerian-Americans is what the Senator can joke with whimsically. This is completely unacceptable."
The group added that it does not wish to start debates about the nature of international scammers, but pointed out that the practice is not limited to any one country.
"There is only one decent option open to Senator Cruz: an unconditional and full apology," the statement continued.
"We want to assure our people, that we are not taking this kind of unmitigated insults lying down anymore. We are respectable, law abiding and outstanding members of the American society."
Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) has also criticized Cruz's comments, saying that other Republicans are likely to feel that such remarks only do harm to their party's image.
"Jokes about Nigerian scammers, you know, I wonder how much off the cuff that really was, and how calculated it was to appeal to Sen. Cruz's base, many of whom believe that the president is from Africa," Cartwright said on Tuesday.
Pastor Felix Awotula of Redeemed Christian Church of God agreed that such remarks can be very damaging.
"I'm not too sure of the motive behind that. But anyway, the statement has been made, and it has a devastating effect in the mind of Nigerians because we don't want to identify the country with anything negative. I'm not saying all Nigerians are perfect," Awotula said.