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08/09/2014 02:33 pm ET Updated Aug 09, 2014

MSNBC Head Pledges To Boost Diversity After Cinco De Mayo Disaster

Frederick M. Brown via Getty Images

SAN ANTONIO -- The president of MSNBC pledged on Friday to meet continually with Hispanic experts to improve diversity on air in the wake of a Cinco de Mayo disaster that he said left him "horrified."

Speaking at a luncheon panel at the annual convention of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Phil Griffin apologized several times for the segment that aired on May 5 of this year, in which a journalist wandered around in a sombrero drinking tequila straight from the bottle to commemorate the holiday.

"It was an embarrassment to me personally, and to the company," Griffin said in his opening remarks at the panel.

Despite the apologies, the Cinco de Mayo segment and the seeming problem with network diversity it highlighted surfaced several times during the event, both in questions from the audience and in prodding from Griffin's co-panelist Alex Nogales, an advocate with the National Hispanic Media Coalition. Nogales' group pushes for better representation of Hispanics in the media and entertainment industries.

Nogales asked whether Griffin and MSNBC hosts would agree to have a meeting with a group of Latino experts to discuss how the network could better cultivate Hispanic sources and experts to interview on the air.

Griffin said he’d go one step further, asking to organize meetings on a continual basis and to bring producers into the meetings as well.

Diversifying the network isn't just the right thing to do, Griffin said, it also makes business sense.

“There is a huge audience out there,” Griffin said, referring to Latinos. “And I want us to be the first one to tap into it in a really positive way.”

Griffin also noted during the panel that journalist José Díaz-Balart had recently joined the network to anchor on weekdays at 10 a.m.

“Having José in the newsroom has already changed our world,” Griffin said. He added that Díaz-Balart has helped make the network more representative of U.S. demographics by bringing Hispanic sources on air to talk about topics other than immigration.

The MSNBC reporters involved in the segment have already apologized on air, but Griffin said that he'd also met with every department at MSNBC to discuss the issue.

To show his contrition, Griffin said the segment had embarrassed him so badly that just seeing a sombrero raises the ugly memory.

“When I walk by a Mexican restaurant, I get nervous,” Griffin said. “When I see a sombrero, I get upset.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article identified Alex Nogales' group as the Hispanic Media Coalition. It is the National Hispanic Media Coalition.

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