On Monday, protesters marched through the streets of San Francisco carrying pictures of funnyman Jimmy Kimmel’s face — with a Hitler mustache drawn above his lip and a swastika by his side. More than 100 people, largely Asian Americans, were still fuming about a skit that aired on Kimmel’s late-night show earlier this month.
In the midst of the government shutdown, Kimmel gathered a “kids’ table” to comment on the current state of affairs, similar to previous kids-say-the-darndest-things skits that Jimmy Kimmel Live has aired, whether asking youngsters to explain the national anthem or happenings in politics. 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.” 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. (You can watch the video here.)
“We have a sense of humor,” the march’s leader Carl Chan said in a speech outside ABC headquarters. “But not at the expense of killing all Chinese.” Emphasizing that “kids will be kids,” many protesters argued that the problem was not the child’s comment but that Kimmel seemed to condone the idea and did not challenge it. Protest signs connected the skit to violence in the news. One alleged that ABC and Kimmel “teach kids killing today” and there’s “a school shooting tomorrow.”
ABC issued an apology late last week to one Asian-American group that complained about the skit, saying the segment will be edited out of future airings and online clips. The network has also released this comment to concerned viewers and consumer groups:
“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. We took swift action to minimize the distribution of the skit by removing it from all public platforms available to us and editing it out of any future airings of the show. We hope our actions and our apology effectively address your concerns. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.”
The boisterous group in San Francisco chanted, “Fire Jimmy Kimmel,” “Boycott ABC” and “No more racial hatred.” Through megaphones, they demanded a more elaborate apology and that an ABC representative come receive letters of protest. Many had organized through social media and in response to news on Chinese radio shows. “Today’s hate speech,” shouted Chan, an Oakland, Calif., resident who works in real estate, “becomes tomorrow’s hate crime.” When no one emerged from the building, Chan started another chant: “We will be back,” he said, echoed by the crowd. “Today is only the beginning.”