Meaning and Significance of the Recent Jimmy Kimmel/ABC Incident

On October 16, 2013, some remarks were made in the Jimmy Kimmel’s Kids Table program that got the attention of essentially all the Chinese in the world. At this program, Jimmy Kimmel asked several kids at a table how should America pay back the large amount of money that America owes China? One of the kids said “You kill everyone in China.” Jimmy Kimmel laughed and said “That is an interesting idea.” He then asked “Should we allow the Chinese to live?” For those who have not seen the program, click on the link https://sites.google.com/site/boycottjimmykimmelandabc/.

This program immediately created an uproar among all the Chinese in the world, especially among the Chinese Americans in the U.S.  The issue is not what a six-year-old child said; the issue is what Jimmy Kimmel and ABC said and did, or not said and didn’t do, after the kid’s remark.

Jimmy Kimmel is an adult and an experienced talk-show host.  When hearing such racist and inflammatory remark from a child, Jimmy Kimmel should have said something like “That is an inappropriate remark.  Making that kind of remark can result in harms to people.”  Furthermore, that show was not live, but prerecorded.  So Jimmy Kimmel, or the producers of that program, or ABC management could have decided not to include that segment in their broadcast program.  This incident is especially incredulous in light of great concerns over recent school shootings and bullying.  The fact that that was not done indicates how poisonous an environment that all the recent biased attacks on China by our press and our political leaders have created [1], so that such obvious racist and highly inflammatory remarks against Chinese are aired in a widely seen public TV program.  Can you imagine if that kind of remark was targeted at the Jewish or Black Americans, would Jimmy Kimmel or ABC proceed in the same way?  Would the American press and political leaders stay silent?

For more than a week, Jimmy Kimmel and ABC did not issue an apology.  Only after an uproar of protests and petitions across the U.S., did ABC issue an apology.  This uproar of protests and petitions included a petition to the White House that got over 100,000 signatures in about 20 days [2], and the 80-20 National Asian American Political Action Committee (or 80-20 for short).  The apology was an 10/25/13 private letter from Lisa Berger (EVP, Alternative Series, Late Night and Specials) and Tim McNeal (Talent Development Diversity) to 80-20 (see http://www.80-20initiative.net/pdf/abc-kimmel-apology.pdf).  It was not an open apology that ABC released to the world.  Even though the ABC apology was subsequently cited in many Chinese language newspapers, most people, especially non-Chinese, did not know about the apology.  Furthermore, the ABC apology did not admit that what was said in the program was wrong and harmful, and what ABC plans to do to keep this kind of incidents from happening again.

On his 10/29/13 program, Jimmy Kimmel offered an apology (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWGmSWZzcpA).  His apology was completely unacceptable, because his apology was not sincere and he did not admit that what he did was wrong.  As a matter of fact, he said “I thought it was obvious that I didn’t agree with that statement [3].”

Then on 10/30/13 Jimmy Kimmel appeared in front of the Chinese American protestors outside of the ABC Studio in Los Angeles and apologized again (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8EH4tMCvVc).  This second apology was more sincere and was closer to admitting that what he did was wrong, although again he tried to blame the protesters for not being able to see that it was a joke.

Since none of the apologies from Jimmy Kimmel or ABC was acceptable, a nationwide protest was carried out on 11/9/13 at more than two dozen cities across the U.S.  Then on 11/10/13 evening, people first became aware of an ABC apology dated 11/8/13 posted in an ABC website:  http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://www.abcmedianet.com/web/dnr/dispDNR.aspx?id=pr62214.  This apology admits that that program should never be broadcasted, that their process did not function properly to catch that type of mistake, and that they have taken steps to prevent this type of issue from happening again.  However, the apology did not say what was it that they did that was wrong, what specific steps they have taken to prevent this kind of thing from happening again, and why the apology was not announced to the world but merely posted in an ABC website that people do not normally visit.

What was puzzling is that with thousands of protestors focusing on every action of ABC, no one saw this apology until the evening of 11/10/13, even though the apology was dated 11/8/13.  Did ABC try to pull a fast one on the protestors using deception and backdated the apology to 11/8/13, one day before the nationwide protest, to make it appear that the 11/9/13 nationwide protest did not force ABC to issue a second apology?

In spite of the shortcomings of the second ABC apology, some of the organizations that organized the 11/9/13 nationwide protests at some of the cities decided to accept ABC’s apology.  So instead of focusing on more protest demonstrations, as a whole the various organizations across the country are focusing on establishing a nationwide organization that works on improving the civil rights of Chinese Americans or Chinese in this country and around the world.

What do we learn from this incident and the subsequent events?

  • The political atmosphere toward Chinese is now so poisonous that making such racist and inflammatory remarks on Chinese is almost acceptable.  Our press and our political leaders have been painting China as our evil enemy and have been implementing a policy to surround, contain, and weaken China, instead of seeking ways to work with the second largest economy in the world that is beneficial to the U.S., China, and world peace.
  • Our country seems to have lost its principles of fairness and justice.  In implementing its policy of surrounding, containing, and weakening China, she chose as her prime partner the country of Japan, a country that still has not acknowledged and apologized for her massive and inhumane atrocities that she inflicted all over Asia during WWII, a country whose political leaders frequently pay tribute at the Yasukuni Shrine where 14 convicted and executed Class A Japanese war criminals are enshrined.  This is analogous to German chancellors paying tribute at a Hitler memorial.
  • Instead of admitting to their mistakes, the perpetuators are blaming the targets of their racist remarks for not being able to understand that it was a joke
  • This is no laughing matter because it could easily lead to bullying, beatings, or murders
  • United in actions can force changes
  • This is not only an issue for Chinese or Chinese Americans, but an issue for all of humanity, because as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

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[1]  For a discussion of such biased attacks on China’s recently announced Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), see the article “What Can Be Learned from China’s New Air Defense Identification Zone” in  http://www.dontow.com/2013/12/what-can-be-learned-from-chinas-new-air-defense-identification-zone/.

[2]  The White House petition requirement is that if a petition can get 100,000 signatures within 30 days, then the White House will respond to that petition.  This petition got the required 100,000 signatures in about 20 days.  However, I do not know whether the White House has responded, because I have not seen a response.

[3]  Referring to the kid’s statement.

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2 Responses to “Meaning and Significance of the Recent Jimmy Kimmel/ABC Incident”

  1. Rich Braverman says:

    Don

    Thank you again for your informative website. I agree with your opinion on this issue. All things considered Mr. Obama should have spoken out about it given the importance of US & Chinese relations.

    Rich

  2. hsienli tan says:

    Don

    Thank you for the clarity and pointing out the REAL issue of this ABC/Kimmel incident : It is not just racism against the Chinese. It is against ALL PEOPLE.

    However, I’ve read a number of Chinese criticisms of Kimmel prefaced thus: “AS A CHINESE, (I feel Kimmel did wrong, is offensive to the Chinese, is being racist … etc. etc.)”

    This facile preface — “as a Chinese, etc etc, etc,” — implies that the ABC/Kimmel incident is just a Chinese concern. So if I were not Chinese, I can just ignore the issue? or shrug?

    But racial hatred is a issue that concerns ALL RACES.
    .
    Perhaps this preface “AS A CHINESE, etc etc etc…” is just a facile way to write English, and does not indicate the commentators’ belief that that the racism and ill-will of ABC & Kimmel are a Chinese issue only. I hope this explains the usage of “as a Chinese” in the comments.

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