The blowback to a Fox News segment this week that was chock full of Asian stereotypes has been loud and swift. Activists, Asian American organizations and journalist associations have called Jesse Watters’s man-on-the-street interviews for “The O’Reilly Factor” racist and demanded explanations.
Then, on Thursday night, “The Daily Show” responded with the kind of angry critique of Fox News that was the hallmark of the Comedy Central show when helmed by Jon Stewart. Ronny Chieng, a stand-up comedian and “senior media correspondent,” took on Watters — how he interviewed elderly people who didn’t seem to speak English, how he asked questions like “Do you know karate?” and how his segment was spliced with footage from “The Karate Kid.”
“They say ‘China’ in the debate, so you go to Chinatown? In New York?” asked Chieng, in disbelief, referring to the stated premise of the segment. “So when they mention Mexico, you send someone to Taco Bell? Chinatown is nothing like China! They got nothing to do with each other. That’s like if they brought up women’s rights, so I decided to go over to Fox News to get some opinions.”
(The clip below contains some expletives.)
Tonight at 11/10c, correspondent Ronny Chieng reports on the Fox News/Jesse Watters racist Chinatown segment. pic.twitter.com/FTq8HyJ0KD
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) October 7, 2016
Chieng played portions of the Fox News segment, such as when Watters asks an elderly man, “Is it the year of the dragon? Rabbit?” and the man does not respond.
“No, it’s actually the year of ‘Go f— yourself,” Chieng responded. “What the hell was that? How was that on the news? In fact, how was that even on TV? … If you’re going to be racist, at least get your stereotypes right. … Karate isn’t Chinese, it’s Japanese. And you’re doing it in a taekwondo studio, which is Korean.” Then Chieng continued with a bunch of stuff we can’t really write here.
Chieng also made fun of Watters’s use of Mr. Miyagi clips, imploring the Fox News personality to “update your reference material! That’s like me making fun of Americans for ‘Saturday Night Fever’ and Mr. T.”
“If you wanna come at Chinese people, make fun of China’s high pollution, or the fact they censor most of the Internet, which in this case might actually be a good thing since no person in China will ever have to watch your garbage attempt at comedy,” Chieng said.
Chieng, who is of Chinese descent and was raised in New Hampshire and Singapore, headed to Chinatown himself to ask questions. Pedestrians offered thoughtful critiques of the election cycle in Chinese. One woman then said in English, “I’m from Queens.”
This election cycle has had many on the left missing Jon Stewart’s presence on “The Daily Show,” and his epic political rants that captured a particular brand of “can you believe this?” rage, often directed at Republicans and Fox News. Those rants often turned into instant viral videos.
On Thursday, Chieng directed a similar brand of incredulous anger at Fox and Watters.
As The Fix’s Callum Borchers wrote this week, “Watters specializes in field reports starring random people — often liberals — who are unable to answer his on-the-spot questions. His segments appear designed to comfort conservative viewers by making them feel superior to his interview subjects.”
On Wednesday, Watters offered this explanation: “As a political humorist, the Chinatown segment was intended to be a light piece, as all Watters World segments are,” he tweeted. “My man-on-the-street interviews are meant to be taken as tongue-in-cheek and I regret if anyone found offense.”
The Asian American Journalists Association said in a statement about the segment, “There was nothing gentle or fun about it. It was rude, offensive, mocking, derogatory and damaging. Fox missed a real opportunity to investigate the Asian American vote, a topic not often covered in mainstream news.”