(dpa) - China's Foreign Ministry summoned CNN executives to lodge a protest as it seeks an apology from the US news network for statements made by a commentator.
CNN said Jack Cafferty was referring to China's leadership and not China's people on April 9 when he said, "I think they're basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they've been for the last 50 years."
But the Chinese government did not accept that explanation. Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said Cafferty's "vile remarks" "maliciously attacked the Chinese people and seriously violated the professional ethics of journalism," according to a report Thursday in the state-run China Daily newspaper.
The criticism came as China has been accusing foreign media, and singling out CNN, for biased coverage on Tibet and last month's protests and unrest there.
"CNN's ulterior motive in targeting the Chinese government, continuing to mislead public opinion as well as deceiving the Chinese people will never succeed," Liu said Wednesday in a written statement.
He called for "a sincere apology to all Chinese people."
CNN said Tuesday "that it was not Mr Cafferty's, nor CNN's, intent to cause offence to the Chinese people, and [CNN] would apologize to anyone who has interpreted the comments in this way."
It noted that it employs commentators "who provide robust opinions that generate debate," including Cafferty, who has been critical of a number of world governments in comments made on CNN, including the US administration.