FIREFIGHTER: JASON BATEMAN SLAPPED ME WITH ETHNIC INSULT

Published on: November 11, 2003

Jason Bateman, star of FOX's new comedy "Arrested Development," has been accused of hurling an ethnic slur at a Mexican-American firefighter.

And Captain Fernando Padilla, a 20-year veteran with the Santa Monica Fire Department, is demanding an apology from the star, who played the son on "The Hogan Family" in the 1980s.

"I've instructed my three kids that prejudice is wrong -- and I wouldn't feel right if I let this slide," Padilla, 45, told The ENQUIRER in an exclusive interview.

"I think Jason Bateman should be man enough to apologize to me and my kids for what he said.

"Or if it was a miscommunication, then he should explain that too."

Padilla, who was born in Mexico, but has lived in the U.S. since age 2, said he took his daughter Amanda, 5, sons Adam, 10, Kyle, 12, and two young nieces to the beach in Marina del Rey for an outing in August.

When they got there they saw that "Arrested Development" had rented part of the wharf for filming -- but the pony ride was open to the public.

Padilla, a paramedic who has saved countless lives, says he kept the kids away and quiet until there was a break in filming. Then they started to get on the ride.

"Suddenly, Jason Bateman ran over to me and yelled: 'Can't you get your kids out of here? Just put them in a car and go. Find some other beach. Just get out of here. All of you, get out!' " said the captain.

"I tried to tell him politely that the ride was still open to the public and that we would just take a minute and leave. But he didn't want to listen.

"Then in a very disrespectful and insulting way, he shot back, 'What is it with you? Is it English you don't understand?'

"It was very clear to me and those around me within earshot that Bateman meant to insult me.

"I took it as a racial insult. So did my kids who later questioned me why did this 'bad man say those mean things.' "

Rather than get into a fight, Padilla reported the incident to city authorities. He also tried contacting Bateman, 34, for an explanation.

"But apparently he was either too chicken or too busy because no one called me back," says the captain.

The ENQUIRER got in touch with Shannon Ryan of FOX-TV publicity to ask about the incident. She said she would speak to Bateman. A day later, she called back with a "no comment"!

"I only hope that Jason Bateman is as embarrassed by this story," Padilla says, "as I was when he insulted me in front of my children." -- PATRICIA TOWLE