Brazilian media giant Globo has suspended the anchor of one of its flagship news programs after a video circulated online in which he appears to make racist comments.
The video shot last year shows William Waack, in a Washington studio with a view of the White House behind him, about to go on the air when beeping is heard in the background. Waack expresses irritation at the noise and then seems to whisper to his guest that a black person is responsible.
Globo suspended Waack late Wednesday, hours before his late-night news show was set to air and after the video began circulating online. Another anchor presented the show, opening by saying that Globo is "viscerally against racism." The anchor said that Waack said he doesn't remember the incident but offered an apology to those who were offended. That same statement has been distributed by Globo's many branches, which include broadcast and print media and a massive presence online.
The statement said that, while the audio is not clear, Waack made "comments, which everything indicates, were of a racist nature." The company said it would start a conversation with Waack about the next steps on Thursday.
Brazil has a fraught racial legacy: It was the world's largest slave market and also the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery. Today, more than half of Brazil's population identifies as black or mixed race and widespread mixing has contributed to the myth of a color-blind society. Brazil is only just beginning to grapple with racism after decades in which talking about it was taboo.
The country's searing inequality is racially tinged — with dark-skinned Brazilians more likely to be poor or suffer violence than their white counterparts — and people of color have only recently begun to gain access in significant numbers to areas that traditionally excluded them, like universities, prominent acting roles or senior political positions.
Waack, who is known for being outspoken, is a respected journalist who has worked for both print and broadcast media. He was a longtime foreign correspondent who covered the break-up of the Soviet Union in the 1990s and the first Gulf War.