Colbert Tries to Distance Himself From Tweet That Was Based on His Own Words

Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert found himself at the center of a controversy on Thursday stemming from a racially insensitive tweet posted to The Colbert Report Twitter account. The well-known satirist  tried to distance himself from the tweet (now deleted) early Friday morning – even though it was almost a direct quote from his Wednesday night show.

Here is the offending tweet, posted on Thursday to the verified Twitter account of The Colbert Report:


I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.— The Colbert Report (@ColbertReport) March 27, 2014
 

The tweet sparked outrage among Asian Americans and other minorities, as detailed in this USA Today article. The hashtag #CancelColbert started trending on Twitter. So late Thursday night, in an effort to stem the bleeding, the Colbert Report Twitter account sent out this message:
 

For the record @ColbertReport is not controlled by Stephen Colbert or his show. He is @StephenAtHome Sorry for the confusion #CancelColbert
 

Colbert then took to his personal Twitter account and sent out this tweet:

 

#CancelColbert - I agree! Just saw @ColbertReport tweet. I share your rage.

 

    Who is that, though? I'm @StephenAtHome http://thecolbertreport.cc.com/videos/b6cwb3/sport-report---professional-soccer-toddler--golf-innovations---washington-redskins-charm-offensive …

 

The Colbert Report Twitter account may not be controlled by Colbert. Indeed, the people behind the account called it “a Comedy Central promotional account, with no oversight from Stephen or his show.” But here’s the thing –  their offensive tweet was based on a line that came straight out of Colbert’s mouth on his Wednesday night show.

During that episode, Colbert was poking fun at Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder for creating the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation. The host ridiculed it as an attempt to dispel criticism of the team’s nickname, which some find offensive to Native Americans.

This controversy inspired Colbert to mention Ching-Chong Ding-Dong, a stereotypical Asian character that the funnyman has portrayed on his show in the past. After playing a somewhat offensive clip of the character from 2005, Colbert proclaimed:

Now, folks, the small-minded out there have called Ching-Chong Ding-Dong an offensive caricature of an Asian-American. That is wrong. Mr. Ding-Dong is not American. He is a Chinaman from Guangong, and if he ever heard someone call him a stereotype, he would choke on his opium pipe.
 

Then came the offending remark:
 

But I am willing to show the Asian community that I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever. It is a wonderful charity.
 

That was the basis for the controversial tweet. I don’t know how Colbert expected to distance himself from the tweet if it was a near-quote of his own words. The Colbert Report Twitter account put out a new tweet on Friday with a link to the video of the offending segment from Wednesday’s show. They said they were providing “context” – as if that context makes the line less offensive.

In fact, the context might actually make Colbert’s comment seem more offensive. The host drew on another Asian stereotype as he talked about his fictional charity’s work: “It's a wonderful charity that's already provided 3,000 of those triangle hats to Asian Americans in need. I assume there's a need because I never see them wearing those things anymore.”

Below is a transcript of the segment:

 

STEPHEN COLBERT: Folks, this move by Dan Snyder inspires me because my show has frequently come under attack for having a so-called offensive mascot. My beloved character Ching-Chong Ding-Dong.

[begin tape]

COLBERT: Oh, I ruv tea. It's so good for you. You so pretty, American girl. You come here. You kiss my tea make her sweet. I need no sugar when you around. Come on my rickshaw, I give you a ride to Bangkok.



[end tape]

COLBERT: Now, folks the small-minded out there have called Ching-Chong Ding-Dong an offensive caricature of an Asian-American. That is wrong. Mr. Ding-Dong is not American. He is a Chinaman from Guangong, and if he ever heard someone call him a stereotype, he would choke on his opium pipe. Of course, there is no pleasing the attack dogs over at Asian Media Watch who demanded that I remove Ching-Chong from the show's letterhead and stop having him accept awards on my behalf. The point is, the point is, offensive or not-- not-- Ching-Chong is part of the of the unique heritage of the Colbert nation that cannot change. But I am willing to show the Asian community that I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever. It is a wonderful charity. Thank you. [Applause] I will applaud my sensitivity as well. It's a wonderful charity that's already provided 3,000 of those triangle hats to Asian Americans in need. I assume there's a need because I never see them wearing those things anymore. And I owe all this sensitivity to Redskins owner Dan Snyder. So, Asians, send your thank you letters to him, not me. We'll be right back.

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.