The American Broadcasting Company (ABC), the fourth most popular television network in the U.S., has issued a formal apology after fallout from a controversial late-night comedy skit led to widespread outrage, petitions, and a comparison of the show’s host to Hitler.
Jimmy Kimmel Live, an hour-long talk and variety show hosted by the American comedian that shares its namesake, aired a segment titled “Kid's Table” on October 16 – an unscripted current events roundtable, hosted by suit-and-tie-wearing children sipping from juice boxes and eating candy. While it was intended to parody the U.S. government shutdown, a comment from one of the children may have elicited more gasps than guffaws.
“When asked how America should pay back the money the U.S. owes to China, one child at the table suggested in an unscripted comment that America ‘kill everyone in China,” wrote Time. “Kimmel chuckled and said, ‘O.K., that’s an interesting idea,’ and soon jokingly asked a follow-up: ‘Should we allow the Chinese to live?’ The kids gave mixed responses.”
Just three days after the segment aired, disgruntled viewers initiated a White House petition that called for the show to be cut. As of this morning, the petition has more than 70,000 signatures – just shy of the 100,000 required for a direct response from the administration.
“Apart from the majority of ethnic Chinese petitioners, there are also apparently petitioners who are Westerners judging by their surnames,” said chinaSMACK. “An overseas Chinese person commented after watching the video on YouTube, ‘My anger is not at the kids, but their parents, and the host, and ABC, for they are ruining the kids. My daughter is 4 years old. If she says something like: kill all the blacks, or kill all the Jews, I would definitely have a serious talk with her, because that is not tolerable speech.’”
The video has been deleted from ABC’s website since October 23. The clip can be viewed on YouTube here.
The South China Morning Post obtained an apology statement from ABC, originally sent to the 80-20 Initiative – an Asian American equal rights group.
“We offer our sincere apology. We would never purposefully broadcast anything to upset the Chinese community, Asian community, anyone of Chinese descent or any community at large… our objective is to entertain,” read the statement, which was signed by ABC executive vice president Lisa Berger. It was issued last Saturday – more than a week after the offensive skit aired.
On Monday, a group of more than 100 protestors marched on ABC’s San Francisco offices – carrying pictures of Kimmel with a Hitler-style moustache drawn on his face and a swastika over his shoulder, along with the words “manipulate children, promote racial genocide.”
Jimmy Kimmel has yet to offer a direct apology.