Gordon: no more Chinese jokes

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After initially dismissing complaints about how he ridiculed a Chinese contender of Holland’s Got Talent, panelist Gordon has admitted that he now understands the issue better and that he will stop making jokes about Chinese people in public. 

Holland's Got Talent judge Gordon (left) and contestant Xiao Wang (Sara Lee/Change.org/RTL)

“I get it that there is a group of people in the Netherlands of Asian descent who have always felt secondary because of jokes that are being made about them in public. I know the times are changing and I understand that they get miffed about it,” he said in the TV program “Van der Vorst ziet de sterren van 2013.”

The popular singer/panelist was paddling back on his notorious “number-39-with-rice” joke he cracked at Holland’s Got Talent contestant Xiao Wang. He derided the contestant before and even after the amateur singer's performance was rewarded by a standing ovation from the audience. “Supplies!” he said, as an intentional mispronunciation of “Surprise!”, and then went on to say “Honestly, this is the best Chinese I've had in weeks, and it’s not a takeaway.” Switching to Dutch, he also said “He looks like a waiter from a Chinese restaurant.”

The incident went viral and caused a further crack in the “tolerant” reputation of the Netherlands, a reputation that got dented by racial controversies in the last months of 2013. Refusing to let go, the Chinese community went on the defense; 39 restaurants creatively offered a 39% discount off number 39 on their menus. Despite the condemnation, Gordon repeatedly refused the domestic and international calls for an apology, saying in an interview: ‘The Netherlands are being run over by everybody and their kid brother’ and ‘ethnic minorities should not criticize my jokes’.

But during his interview with Peter van der Vorst that was televised Tuesday night, he sang a different tune. He said he had never realized that people could consider his jokes hurtful, and now understands why Xiao Wang did not appreciate being addressed and ridiculed that way.

“I never thought of it, but now I will think twice before making a joke to a Chinese person,” Gordon said, stressing that it hurt him personally to know that the word “racist” may pop up when people Google his name.