A scene in TV's "Desperate Housewives" that used Philippine medical education for a punchline prompted angry calls from viewers, an online petition demanding an apology and criticism from Philippine officials.
In the season premiere that aired Sunday on ABC, Teri Hatcher's character, Susan, goes in for a medical checkup and is shocked when the doctor suggests she may be going through menopause.
"Listen, Susan, I know for a lot of women the word 'menopause' has negative connotations. You hear 'aging,' 'brittle bones,' 'loss of sexual desire,' " the gynecologist tells her.
"OK, before we go any further, can I check these diplomas? Just to make sure they aren't, like, from some med school in the Philippines?" Susan fires back.
Viewers called the network to complain and tens of thousands names were attached to an online petition seeking a network apology.
"A statement that devalues Filipinos in healthcare is extremely unfounded, considering the overwhelming presence of Filipinos and Filipino Americans in the medical field," the petition read in part.
ABC, owned by the Walt Disney Co., responded with a statement Wednesday. ABC said it was considering editing the episode.
"The producers of 'Desperate Housewives' and ABC Studios offer our sincere apologies for any offense caused by the brief reference in the season premiere. There was no intent to disparage the integrity of any aspect of the medical community in the Philippines," the statement said.
The TV episode even became an international incident, with reports on it topping Philippine news shows and drawing newspaper headlines as officials there registered their displeasure. Filipinos could judge the scene for themselves when it was posted on YouTube.
In Manila, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said he was writing the producers to seek an apology and note the country's "vehement protest." Senior cabinet member Eduardo Ermita told reporters that an apology should be sought "on behalf of our Filipino professionals."