Cell Phone Firm Hangs Up On Ringtone Deemed Racist

AP, May 9, 2006

BROWNSVILLE—Cingular Wireless pulled a ringtone from its Web site Tuesday after learning that it carried a message the company called “blatantly offensive.”

The cellular phone company became aware of the ringtone, which uses mixed English and Spanish and threatens deportation, after an inquiry from a reporter for the Brownsville Herald.

Editor Rachel Benavidez said Tuesday that she heard the ringtone over the weekend when a friend visited the Cingular site. The newspaper then played the ringtone for Cingular officials.

The newspaper reported in its online edition Tuesday that the ringtone started with a siren, followed by a male voice saying in a Southern drawl, “Calmate, calmate, this is la Migra,” slang for Border Patrol.

“Por favor, put the oranges down and step away from the cell phone. I repeat-o, put the oranges down and step away from the telephone-o. I’m deporting you back home-o,” the voice continued.

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Siegel said the company removed the ringtone, among thousands available for downloading from its Web site, Tuesday afternoon.

“Needless to say, we deeply regret and apologize for it ever being there in the first place. The ringtone is blatantly offensive,” he said.

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