Fox 'regrets' remark about blacks
Mexican president invites Sharpton, Jackson to collaborate
(CNN) -- Mexican President Vicente Fox called two American civil rights leaders late Monday and told them he regretted any offense to African-Americans when he said Mexican immigrants in the United States take jobs "that not even blacks want to do."
Fox spoke separately by phone with Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, according to a statement from the Mexican Foreign Ministry.
The statement said Fox invited them to Mexico to "join forces" on working for immigration rights and civil rights for immigrants in the United States.
Fox told the men that he "regretted if he offended the African-American community" and said he has "great respect for the African-American community," according to the statement.
The ministry said Fox understands the African-American community has worked hard to fight against discrimination and that as a result of that fight the Mexican community in America has benefited greatly.
In an interview on Fox News, Sharpton said the phone call was a "step in the right direction," but he called on the Mexican president to issue a formal apology.
"If in fact what he expressed to me on the phone was so, then he needs to demonstrate that those statements, one, do not reflect how he feels; and two, he needs to formally apologize," he said.
Jackson did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment. But on Saturday, he called the remark "a spurious comparison" with "ominous racial overtones." (Full story)
Earlier in the day, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher dubbed the Mexican president's comments "a very insensitive and inappropriate way to phrase this."
"We would hope that they would clarify the remarks if they have a chance," Boucher told reporters.
Fox made the comment Friday to a group of Texas businessmen meeting in Mexico, prompting outrage in the African-American community.
He criticized recent steps the United States has taken that the Bush administration said were aimed at curbing illegal immigration.
Fox discussed the role that many Mexican immigrants occupy in the U.S. economy.
"There is no doubt that Mexicans, filled with dignity, willingness and ability to work, are doing jobs that not even blacks want to do there in the United States," he said in Spanish.