Indian media have been giving wide play to derogatory comments by a U.S. diplomat couple on Indian life and culture, exacerbating already strained relations between the two countries in the wake of the Devyani Khobragade affair.
The Times of India identified the couple as Wayne May, who headed the security team at the U.S. embassy in New Delhi, and his wife Alicia Muller, who worked, ironically, as a community liaison officer.
May had been expelled from India in retaliation for the recent arrest in New York City of Khobragade, an Indian diplomat, who was indicted on charges of visa fraud and mistreatment of her maid before being allowed to return to New Delhi.
(MORE: After Khobragade: Can U.S.-India Relations Recover?)
On his Facebook page, May made fun of the Indian way of life and said his pet dog was better nourished than his Indian gardener as the dog got more protein in his diet. In one Facebook post, Muller referred to India’s reputation for sexual violence: “It’s the vegetarians that are doing the raping, not the meat eaters — this place is just so bizarre.” The couple also made fun of cows, which are a religious symbol in India. When one of Muller’s friends pointed out that she had insulted an Indian god, she retorted “Not the first time, not the last.”
Washington on Monday was at pains to distance itself from the postings. “Those comments absolutely do not reflect U.S. government policy, nor were they made on any official U.S. government social-media account,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. “I would underscore that these do not in any way represent the U.S. government position.”
Although the offensive remarks appear to have been deleted, several websites in India, including Racist American Diplomats, published a selection of screenshots of them.
Indian commentators have conceded that the posts were “frivolous” but argued that they were nevertheless in bad taste in light of the couple’s diplomatic status.
“Given the sensitive positions they occupied in the U.S. embassy, they are, particularly in hindsight, astonishingly offensive” the Times of India said.
MORE: Devyani Khobragade Scandal: Why India Still Won’t Back Down