Stephen Colbert controversy illustrates extreme difference between TV and Twitter audiences


(Scott Gries, AP)

Whoever runs the “Colbert Report” Twitter account learned a valuable lesson Thursday night about the difference between tweeting a Stephen Colbert quote from the show, and tweeting a Stephen Colbert quote from the show taken completely out of context.

Because “The Colbert Report” TV audience and a general Twitter audience? Very, very different.

“I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever,” @ColbertReport tweeted Thursday evening. The Twitter police immediately pounced, as people started accusing Colbert of racism and starting a #CancelColbert hashtag.

However, when that line was on TV Wednesday night, there was no negative reaction. Here’s what actually happened: While that line looks wildly offensive, it was part of Colbert’s regular shtick as his Comedy Central late-night character, skewering someone by taking things to the next level and acting even more ridiculous. In this case, it was Redskins owner Dan Snyder, who announced recently that he would not change the Redskins name and would instead start a Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation.

More of what Colbert said on Wednesday’s show: “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,” Colbert said, showing a 2005 clip of him acting out the character. “Offensive or not (not), Ching Chong is part 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 Sensitive to Orientals or Whatever…and I owe all this sensitivity to Redskins owner Dan Snyder.”

To recap: The TV audience? Loved it! Or at least, didn’t think twice, given that its consistent with Colbert’s TV persona. The Twitter audience? Hated it! The tweet was deleted, and  since it was sent at 6 p.m., after his Thursday show already taped, there was no way to address it on air.

Plus, the @ColbertReport account isn’t even affiliated with Colbert. Looks like a perfectly good rage hashtag was created for nothing.

 

 

And Colbert himself jumped into the fray:

 

Those still looking for an apology? Going back through Colbert archives, this isn’t the first time the comedian been accused of being insensitive and declined to dignify it with a true apology. Back in April 2012, he offered a “Colbology” after people called him transphobic for his joke about pink slime (“Our beef now has so many hormones, it’s a member of the transgender community.”). Of course, the apology was very Colbert:

“I, Stephen Colbert, apologize to any of my transgender bovine viewers that may have been offended,” he said at the time. “No matter how you were born, no matter how you identify, I want to be clear that I would be proud to grind you up and eat you.”

Here’s Wednesday night’s clip:

Emily Yahr is an entertainment reporter and pop culture blogger for the Style section. She joined the Post in May 2008, a week before she graduated from the University of Maryland, and worked on Lisa de Moraes' TV Column and blog.
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