NEW DELHI: India has strongly objected to the remark on the Golden Temple by popular US television host Jay Leno, terming it quite unfortunate. India said that Leno's comments had offended Sikh sentiments.
Robert Blake, the US diplomat handling South Asia affairs, was also summoned by India.
Leno, the host of the popular 'The Tonight Show' on NBC channel, flashed a picture of the Golden Temple, the Sikh shrine on his programme and termed it as a possible summer home of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
The US government cited freedom of speech enshrined in the US Constitution, to defend Leno. NBC Channel is yet to reply.
American Sikhs have launched an online protest petition against Leno.
The Ministry of External Affairs took up the matter after Vyalar Ravi saw the show during his visit to the US.
The Overseas Indian Affairs Minister objected to the remark and said he has directed Indian Ambassador to the US Nirupama Rao to take up the matter with the State Department.
Earlier IANS story:
US defends remark of TV host on Golden Temple
By Arun Kumar
WASHINGTON: The US has come to the defence of US television host Jay Leno and said the visual of Golden Temple in Amritsar during "The Tonight Show" was a "satirical" reference to Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's vacation home.
While the US had "absolute respect" for the people of India, including Sikhs, "The Tonight Show" host's comments "are constitutionally protected in the United States under free speech", State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters Monday.
The US, she said, had so far "had not had any communications from the Indian government" on the controversial comments that have angered the Sikh community in the US which has launched an online petition against Leno.
Asked about the US government's stand on the issue, Nuland said: "Well, I think that Mr. Leno would be appreciative - I hope he'll be appreciative - if we make the point that his comments are constitutionally protected in the United States under free speech, and frankly, they appear to be satirical in nature."
"But from a US official government perspective, we have absolute respect for all the people of India, including Sikhs here, there," she said.
Noting that President Barack Obama was the first president ever to host a celebration in honour of the first Sikh guru Guru Nanak, Nuland said "our view is, obviously, that Sikh Americans have contributed greatly to the United States".
Visiting Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi had Sunday asked the Indian Ambassador to the US Nirupama Rao to take up with the State Department the issue, featured on Leno's show Thursday.
"It is quite unfortunate and quite objectionable that such a comment has been made after showing the Golden Temple," Ravi told Indian reporters here.
"The Golden Temple is Sikh community's most sacred place. Even our prime minister went there for praying in the New Year. I believe that the person who has shown it is not that ignorant. The American government should also look at this kind of thing," Ravi had said.