NEW YORK (CNN) -
AT&T Wireless has outraged Asian-American civil rights organizations with a full page ad appearing Wednesday in newspapers across the country, prompting an apology from the cell phone carrier.
The ad promotes the company's reduced international calling rates under the abbreviation "JAP" for Japan.
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The company now agrees with its critics, who say it should have used the internationally accepted abbreviation "JPN" for Japan. But civil rights groups say the company is guilty of reinforcing racial slurs, whether or not it was a mistake.
The ad shows a smiling woman of Asian descent above a listing of international phones rates -- including the "JAP" abbreviation and "MEX" for Mexico, among others.
CNN's Fred Katayama contacted the Japanese-American Citizens League, whose Executive Director John Tateishi said: "I view [JAP] as derogatory whether there was intent or not. AT&T [Wireless] should know better. I'm going to insist they change the ad."
"The abbreviation should be 'JPN.' It's reinforcing a racial slur," Guy Aoki, founding president of the Media Action Network for Asian-Americans, told CNN.
Ironically, the largest minority shareholder in AT&T Wireless (AWE: down $0.06 to $11.02, Research, Estimates) is Japan's largest wireless carrier, NTT DoCoMo (DCM: down $0.21 to $21.37, Research, Estimates), which had no comment on the ad.
A spokesman for AT&T Wireless acknowledged both groups' concerns.
"It's dreadful. I apologize. It's unacceptable. We've got to see how this happened and make sure this never happens again," spokesman Mark Siegal said. "Obviously, it's not intentional since we're trying to sell to Japanese customers."
Among the papers that carried the ad were The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.