Have you chosen a side in the recent Colbert Report firestorm on Twitter? Is the show actually guilty of using harmful racial epithets or was it simply exercising its right as a fake TV news program?
And while we’re on the topic, what does the man at the centre of the roiling controversy think?
On Monday night, Comedy Central aired the first episode of The Colbert Report since Twitter activists waged a campaign calling for the show’s cancellation and the removal of buttoned-down host Stephen Colbert.
For the sake of clarity, let’s rewind the recent events.
On March 27, The Colbert Report’s official Twitter account set tongues wagging with a tweet stating, “I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.”
The tweet was referencing the previous night’s Colbert Report in which the host poked fun at a real news story about Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder announcing his intention to create the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation, which was his response to renewed claims that the NFL franchise’s team name was racist.
Taken out of context, The Colbert Report’s “Ching-Chong” tweet understandably enraged many Twitter users – most notably the twentysomething activist Suey Park, who immediately mobilized a #CancelColbert campaign.
All of which provided fresh comedy fodder for The Colbert Report’s Emmy-winning writing staff.
On Monday, The Colbert Report kicked off with a dream sequence depicting the host – naturally attired in a Washington Redskins uniform – tossing and turning through a nightmare featuring news reports of the controversy. He was roused from his bad dream by Asian actor B.D. Wong.
Once settled behind his news desk, Colbert got straight to the point with a segment titled, “Who’s Attacking Me Now?”
After proclaiming “the Interwebs tried to swallow me whole!” Colbert said that, “The dark forces trying to silence my message of core conservative principles mixed with youth-friendly product placement have been thwarted.”
In the same segment, Colbert expressed mock horror at the notion that his demise could possibly be hastened by social media.
“We almost lost me,” said Colbert with a shudder. “I’m never going to take me for granted. Who would have thought that a means of communication limited to 140 characters would ever create misunderstanding?”
Wisely, Colbert also pointed out that the offensive tweet was not issued by him, but rather by “the brain trust over at my network.” (Colbert made the same clarification on his personal Twitter account last Friday).
Veering dangerously close to getting serious, the bespectacled comedian said he wasn’t that surprised by Twitter users lashing out at him and his show.
“When I saw the tweet with no context, I understood how people were offended,” he said.
Shifting sharply back to his vainglorious TV persona, Colbert reaffirmed that he is “not a racist… I don’t even see race, not even my own. People tell me I’m white and I believe them because I just devoted six minutes to explain how I’m not a racist.”
Colbert wound down the segment by declaring, “That ends that controversy. I just pray that no one tweets about the time I said that Rosa Parks was overrated, Hitler had some good ideas or ran a cartoon during Black History Month showing President Obama teaming up with the Ku Klux Klan because, man, that sounds pretty bad out of context.”
And to close off the matter once and for all, Colbert welcomed Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, who showed up at the end of the segment to officially shut down @ColbertReport. As of Tuesday, the Twitter account no longer exists.
Now that’s how you defuse a non-controversy.