Comedian Stephen Colbert last night defended himself against the #CancelColbert Twitter hashtag craze that engulfed the media late last week. The bad press for Colbert arose after he did a segment on Wednesday parodying the move by Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to create the “Washington Redskins Foundation for Original Americans.” To place that foundation in proper racial context, Colbert on decided to launch the “Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.”

Then, on Thursday, the promotional Twitter account for his show tweeted a riff on Colbert’s segment: “I am willing to show #Asian community I care introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.”

Twitter hell followed. Suey Park, a freelance writer and “hashtag activist,” launched #CancelColbert on the grounds that even in attempts at satire, this sort of racial messaging doesn’t help anyone, particularly Asians. #CancelColbert went on a Twitter-trending binge, and Colbert was forced to wait out the weekend to respond.

Once he got his shot, he proceeded in classic fashion — a tightly scripted, funny wrapup of the incident. Colbert noted that:

  • The “offending” tweet from the official account carried no link to the original segment nor a warning that he was “inspired” by the Redskins charity. “Who would have thought that a means of communication limited to 140 characters would create misunderstandings?” asked the comedian. He also declared, “When I saw the tweet with no context, I understood how people were offended.”
  • The hashtag activist has been “viciously attacked on Twitter, and if anyone is doing that for me, I want you to stop right now” appealed Colbert. “She’s just speaking her mind, and that’s what Twitter’s for, as well as ruining every show that I haven’t seen yet.”
  • Once the hashtag got moving, it was “picked up by a small group of Americans who get their information only from Twitter — the news media.”
This Sept. 8, 2010 publicity photo released by Comedy Central shows host Stephen Colbert appears on "The Colbert Report," in New York. Colbert's "song of the summer" special was either a real-life corporate tiff over Daft Punk or the most elaborately-planned _ and funniest _ corporate cross-promotions in memory. On his Comedy Central show Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013, Colbert said he had Daft Punk booked to perform the hit "Get Lucky" that night. But he said that on the day before, fellow Viacom Inc., network MTV had pulled rank, claiming the French dance duo had agreed to perform at the Video Music Awards on Aug. 25 and make the show its exclusive U.S. TV appearance. (AP Photo/Comedy Central, Scott Gries)
Stephen Colbert (AP Photo/Comedy Central, Scott Gries)

Toward the end of nearly 15 minutes on the topic, Colbert encapsulated the episode: “A web editor I’ve never met posts a tweet in my name on an account I don’t control, outrages a hashtag activist, and the news media gets 72 hours of content. The system worked.”

Funny, but lame: A media big shot tries to skirt responsibility for something based on the fine distinctions between his show’s official Twitter account and his own personal Twitter account. This excuse sounds like the sort of thing that Colbert and his buddies enjoy skewering. On the merits, Colbert did mention that the #CancelColbert crowd still felt the Asian humor was racist even in the context of Snyder and the Redskins foundation. But he protested: “I am not a racist. I don’t even see race, not even my own.”

No hope, in other words, that Colbert might address just why he chose an Asian riff for his parody. Here’s how Jay Caspian Kang put that consideration in a smart post for the New Yorker: “If I were to predict which minority group the writers of a show like “The Colbert Report” would choose for an edgy, epithet-laden parody, I’d grimace and prepare myself for some joke about rice, karate, or broken English.”

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.