The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Samantha Bee’s show singled out ‘Nazi hair’ at CPAC. One of the joke’s targets has brain cancer.

This week’s episode of “Full Frontal” with Samantha Bee approached its critique of last month’s Conservative Political Action Conference as thoughf it were an anthropology project, with an observational narration of the changing nature of the conservative gathering. One of Bee’s observations — “This year, the bow ties were gone and replaced by Nazi hair” — meant to signal the presence of white nationalists at the conference.

The segment then showed several young men sporting versions of the “fashy,” a partially shaved hairstyle that’s cut short on the sides and long on top. Except that one of the people featured in that segment had a very different reason for his haircut: He recently learned that he has brain cancer.

Does this haircut make me look like a Nazi?

Megan Coddington identified one of the “Nazi hair” wearers as her brother Kyle on Twitter, and she posted an image of the moment in the clip where he is singled out.

The clip, part of a segment by “Full Frontal” producer Mike Rubens, has since been removed from the show’s YouTube page. The show issued an apology on Twitter in reply to Coddington’s tweet:

In a statement sent to The Post later on Thursday afternoon, “Full Frontal” executive producer Jo Miller said that the show had “apologized to Mr. Coddington and his family members,” and would donate to a crowdfunding account for his cancer treatment. “We wish him all the best in his fight against cancer and sincerely, deeply regret offending him and his family,” Miller said.

Neither Megan nor Kyle Coddington was immediately available to speak to us about all this, but Outset, a conservative magazine at which Kyle Coddington is a contributor, said that Coddington had “recently completed his first round of chemotherapy and radiation.” On Twitter, Coddington asked the show to remove the segment because it made him look like a “balding potato,” adding that cancer, and not ideology, was the reason his hair was cut that way.

In late December, Outset posted a link to a GoFundMe campaign for Coddington. The page has a statement from Coddington, who said that he has “stage four glioblastoma,” which is “a very aggressive type of brain cancer.” The campaign has received several anonymous donations over the past hour, presumably in response to the “Full Frontal” segment — including one donation of $1000 attributed to Samantha Bee’s show.

The Nazi hair joke was supposed to be a throwaway joke in a longer piece examining a kind of surreal moment for conservatives, as Trump and his supporters appeared to take over this year’s conference and claim the “conservative” label for themselves. But the joke has become something else entirely: a cautionary tale of just how dangerous it can be to mock a stranger out of context. And in the case of Coddington, it appears he represents a very different aspect of the tale “Full Frontal” wanted to tell.

Coddington hardly appears to be a white nationalist — or even a diehard Trump supporter —  from his social media posts, which contain many references to his Christian faith, a description of an emotional visit to the Holocaust Museum in Washington. There are posts expressing support for refugees and criticizing Trump’s justification for a travel ban, and there’s plenty of criticism of how Trump conducts himself as president:

[This post has been updated since publication to include a statement from a “Full Frontal" executive producer, along with details of its donation to Coddington’s media treatment] 

More reading: