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Guessing incorrectly that Filipino Desperate Housewives fans would find a tossed-off reference about the inadequacy of medical education in the Philippines* uproarious good fun, ABC was forced to apologize for its insensitivity in airing the joke after outraged viewers lit up the network's switchboards and an online petition (internet activism really does work, even if it failed to free Paris Hilton from her unjust imprisonment) drew the e-signatures of 30,000 individuals better informed about the quality of the nation's health care system. The offending dialogue and commentary from the man who started the petition follow:

"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. [...]

"I had to rewind it over and over again to make sure I heard it right," [petition originator Kevin] Nadal said in an interview Wednesday. He watched the episode online after hearing about it from a friend.

"I was immediately offended and, really, just hurt. These days, people are supposed to be more sensitive or more aware of what's considered appropriate," he said, adding that he was hearing from people worldwide who were distressed by the scene. He appreciated ABC's apology, he said, but said he also wanted to see the dialogue removed from future airings and DVDs.

Nadal also suggested that the show's producers and ABC executives could make a more substantial gesture than an apology, through scholarships or donations for Filipino and Filipino-Americans and community groups.

We're confident that ABC, an organization that's becoming more painfully aware of the power of poorly executed jokes to hurt each day, will rise to the occasion and go beyond the obligatory apology it's already issued, taking the protestor's suggestion of a donation to heart. Expect the humbled network to issue another press release shortly, announcing a generous, conciliatory gift of $1 million to the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center Dance Center, proving their commitment to promoting the healing power of the performing arts.

[*Maybe we're dating ourselves here, but aren't all TV jokes about bad medical schools supposed to target Grenada?]