...then again, i am the girl who was put on 6 months probation at work and accused of being a racist for using the term helper monkey. Poo throwing and banana eating were also mentioned; but someone still took it upon themselves to assume i was talking about a race of people in a derogatory way. Angry It still burns me up, and i still think whoever it was that made the complaint was 1) looking for offense 2) trying to get me in trouble 3) has severe self esteem issues ... or all three.
For goodness' sake! If the word "monkey" is racist, then what, pray tell, are we supposed to call actual monkeys? Simian-Americans?
"Circus" has taken on the connotation of something out-of-control in which people behave "like wild animals" -- the term "media circus," for instance. So I can see where people who have been on the receiving end of the "wild animal" stereotype would take offense at the word circus. However, if the writer explained that (a) he had no idea this could offend, and (b) *he* used that word because the event was fun and entertaining, like a day at the circus, then calling for his job (and possibly destroying his career) is over the top.
A paper where I worked took some heat (fortunately, nobody demanded anyone be fired) for using the term "guinea pigs" in a headline. The story was about a product testing company and the people who sign on to be their test subjects -- human guinea pigs. However, the town where the company was located and got most of its subjects happened to have a lot of Italian-Americans.
Another paper got into trouble for referring to Irish-Americans "padding" through churches cataloguing various art and architectural features for a heritage project. "Padding" means walking very quietly, but some thought it was too close to "Paddy," which has been used as a derogatory term for the Irish (as in "paddy wagon"). Never mind that there are actual, living Irish people *named* Paddy.
There are lots of words that are going to offend one person/group or the other. It's not wrong to be offended. But the right thing to do is to state your case, explain the reason the term is offensive, and ask that it not be used again. How is it going to make the complainer's life better that s/he got Joe Reporter fired for an innocent mistake (if you can even call it that) like this?