The Washington Post

How Jimmy Kimmel’s China joke became an issue for the White House

It’s one thing for late-night comics to make jokes about the White House. But Jimmy Kimmel managed to offend so many people with a joke about China that the Obama administration is now officially compelled to respond.

Randy Holmes/AP Photo/ABC

On Oct. 16, Kimmel aired a segment of his Kids Table, where he asks small children to address complex issues. The subject was China and how the U.S. could solve the $1.3 trillion trade imbalance. “Kill everyone in China,” answered one laughing 6-year-old.

Some viewers were so upset that they took their anger to the White House’s “We the People” online initiative, where citizens petition the administration to comment on various issues — and are promised a response if at least 100,000 people sign on during a 30-day period.

“H.Z.” of Cedar Park, Texas started the Kimmel petition, asking for an investigation of the show: “The kids might not know anything better,” it read in part. “However, Jimmy Kimmel and ABC’s management are adults. They had a choice not to air this racist program, which promotes racial hatred. . . .This is the same rhetoric used in Nazi Germany against Jewish people.” The petition reached 100,000 signatures by Thursday morning, less than three weeks after the show aired, reports Deadline.

Of course, Kimmel manages to offend viewers on a regular basis. This week’s outrage: Child psychologists are weighing in on his annual Halloween stunt in which parents pretend to eat their children’s candy, then post the tearful reactions on YouTube.

His China segment, however, really hit a nerve. A group of Asian Americans picketed outside of Kimmel’s studio in L.A.; the host met with protestors and issued an on-air apology. ABC pulled the clip from the website, edited it out of any repeat broadcasts, and issued its own mea culpa: “We would never purposefully broadcast anything to upset the Chinese community, Asian community, anyone of Chinese descent or any community at large.”

We believe this is the first time the White House has been asked to respond to a late-night comedy segment. Most petitions are more wonky: retire daylight savings time, recognize acupuncturists as health-care providers, prevent the FDA from regulating cigars.

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The White House, as promised, will comment on the Kimmel flap — though it may take awhile.

“Every petition that crosses the threshold will be reviewed by the appropriate staff and receive a response,” White House spokesman Matt Lehrich told us. “We do our best to respond to those petitions in a timely fashion, but, depending on a variety of factors including the topic and the overall volume of petitions, response times vary.” In other words — a few weeks, maybe a few months.

More Reliable Source:

George H.W. Bush, Barbara Bush screen “The Book Thief” in Texas

Levi Johnston files for equal custody of son, Tripp
Terry McAuliffe wins: Time to meet the new first family
FCC issues $25,000 fine after Conan O’Brien promo uses fake emergency alert
Elizabeth Vargas checks into rehab, ABC confirms
Goldie Hawn comes home to D.C. for Press Club visit, shares career back-up plan
Nancy Pelosi reads Top 10 list on ‘Letterman’



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
This isn't your daddy's gun club
A look inside the world of Candomblé
It's in the details: Five ways to enhance your kitchen makeover
Play Videos
A fighter pilot helmet with 360 degrees of sky
The rise and fall of baseball cards
Is fencing the answer to brain health?
Play Videos
John Lewis, 'Marv the Barb' and the politics of barber shops
How to prevent 'e-barrassment'
The art of tortilla-making
Play Videos
Circus nuns: These sisters are no act
How hackers can control your car from miles away
How the new credit card chip makes purchases more secure
Next Story
Michael Livingston · November 7, 2013

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.