Jay Leno is being sued over a joke said to have hurt the feelings of ‘all Sikh people’.
Randeep Dhillon is seeking unspecified damages over a gag on the Tonight Show that suggested presidential hopeful Mitt Romney was so rich he lived in the Golden Temple of Amritsar.
Leno’s show intercut footage of the holy site into a news report about the homes of the Republican candidates – suggesting the gold-plated temple was Romney’s ‘summer home’.
But in his claim, Dr Dhillon said the gag ‘clearly exposes plaintiff, other Sikhs and their religion to hatred, contempt, ridicule and obloquy because it falsely portrays the holiest place in the Sikh religion as a vacation resort owned by a non-Sikh’.
The lawsuit added: ‘Jay Leno's racist comments need to be stopped right here.’
Dr Dhillon is not the only one to take issue with Leno's comments. Online petitions have been set up, while overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi called the joke ‘objectionable’ and said ‘freedom does not mean hurting the sentiments of others’.
But US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the US Constitution strictly protected freedom of speech.
Dr Dhillon filed his lawsuit at the in the name of the Bol Punjabi All Regions Community Organisation, a previously unknown group that has no internet presence.
Leno is not the only US comedian on the wrong end of a lawsuit this week – although Andy Dick and Ron Pearson are facing action over what they are alleged to have done, rather than what they said.
Dick, no novice when it comes to run-ins with the law, is said to have sexually assaulted two men at a West Virginia nightclub in 2010. But Dick’s lawyer said the case was ‘only about getting money from a celebrity’.
Meanwhile, Pearson is being sued over some audience interaction he instigated while doing warm-ups for the Disney sitcom Good Luck Charlie last month.
Kellie Rodriguez was invited on stage to perform YMCA – whereupon Pearson allegedly began to spank her. ‘This unwarranted and unconsented spanking was relentless, and did not cease until Plaintiff physically turned around to stop it,’ said the lawsuit.
The document also said Pearson – a born-again Christian who tours as one of the Apostles of Comedy – did the old variety trick of requested a kiss on the cheek, but quickly turned his head and so causing her to kiss him on the lips.
Rodriguez is seeking punitive damages for ‘sexual assault, battery, negligence and ntentional infliction of emotional distress’ among many other things.