‘Me love you long time’: Job recruiter emails Asian female applicant response by mistake

Let’s see, how can we quickly and most effectively mangle our company, which is supposedly an employee recruiting firm that claims to be an Equal Opportunity Employer? … Oh hey, how about this … racism–✔ … sexism–✔  … stupidism–✔

James McMahon, a vice president for Chicago Search Group, checked off all the boxes in one fell swoop when he replied to job applicant Connie Cheung with an email that simply said, “Me love you long time.”

Cheung was stunned. The phrase was uttered by a Vietnamese prostitute to U.S. soldiers in the movie “Full Metal Jacket,” and since the film’s 1987 release, it has become a recognized slur against Asian women. Cheung, who is Chinese-American, told Block Club Chicago that she had heard it in the halls of her high school.

“At first I was just in shock at how unprofessional it was. And also shocked because it had been a while since I had something so blatantly racial said to me,” she said.

“Asian females have always been sexualized because of their history with Western males,” Cheung said. “It’s gross. That specific phrase is sexual. It’s not just toward my race, it’s sexual. That’s all I could think of, was, ‘Why? It’s 2019.’”

After Cheung was set to be interviewed with the company, McMahon intended his email to go to his boss Brian Haugh. It was also accidentally forwarded to her.

Apparently, the company has no P.R. function in-house or crisis management team on retainer as when the media got wind of the story, it went downhill from there.


McMahon told Block Club that he did not intend for the note to be seen by Cheung. He said that he and Haugh are “best friends” and business partners and that they have watched “Full Metal Jacket” together.

Wow. But wait … there’s much more.

When contacted by Block Club, Haugh, who is president of the company, defended McMahon’s email and he refused to answer questions about the company’s hiring practices.

“The quote is from a famous movie, google would have told you that,” he did write in response to Block Club.

When Cheung called and spoke with Haugh, she initially thought she was talking with McMahon. “I asked, ‘Is it because I’m an Asian female?’” she recalled. “He just laughed.”

Then when a friend of hers emailed Haugh about the way Cheung had been offended by McMahon’s note, Haugh replied with a threat of legal action.

“With all due respect, I am focused on bigger problems than your friend being offended by a movie [quote],” the email from Haugh said. “Sorry, but just don’t have time for this. Best of luck to you!! You may want to google libel laws before your crew posts things publicly. Our attorneys are on call….”

Cheung called Haugh’s attitude “condescending.”

McMahon did call to apologize, Cheung told Block Club. She reportedly asked him whether his behavior was condoned by the company and she indicated that McMahon said no.

“Well, it must be. He’s not getting reprimanded,” Cheung told the news organization. “Obviously it’s being condoned.”

McMahon spoke with Block Club and said that he asked his wife, an immigrant, about her opinion on the email when he shared it with her. “She said, ‘Yeah, that’s a racist comment.’ She said, ‘It doesn’t matter what your intent was, it matters how the other person took it.’”

McMahon said that the national executive recruiting company was serious about hiring Cheung and that’s the reason the email and her application was forwarded to Haugh. Apparently, that’s the big downside in all of this … that the company missed out on a new hire. “That’s why I feel horrible,” McMahon said. “She doesn’t know me from Adam, so I get it, I see where she’s coming from. We would not have called her to set up an interview if we were not serious. We’re extremely busy.”

A check of Chicago Search Group’s website today finds that it is down. Hmmm …

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Victor Rantala

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