WASHINGTON – Social media erupted in outrage and counterattacks Friday after U.S. comedian Stephen Colbert used language that mocked Asian-Americans in what was intended as an anti-racist jibe.
Colbert, who is liberal but parodies a blustery conservative on his late night talk show, took aim at the Washington Redskins football team whose name is considered offensive by many Native Americans.
Colbert mocked team owner Dan Snyder who has announced a fund to support Native Americans while rejecting calls to change the name.
On Twitter and on his “Colbert Report” show on the Comedy Central network, Colbert said: “I am willing to show the Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.”
Activists voiced outrage at the remark, which played on mocking imitations of East Asian languages. A conversation, under the hashtag #CancelColbert, was near the top of topics trending on Twitter Friday.
Writer and activist Suey Park, who helped lead the protests, asked why it was acceptable for Colbert to use offensive language for Asian-Americans if he was criticizing racism against Native Americans.
“#CancelColbert because white liberals are just as complicit in making Asian Americans into punchlines and we aren’t amused,” she tweeted.
Colbert distanced himself from the joke. On his personal Twitter account @StephenAtHome, he said he just saw the comment and “I share your rage.”
He tweeted that the comment came not from him but from the account @ColbertReport — an apparent reference to how he performs in character.
Colbert came to prominence in 2006 with a biting tongue-in-cheek satire of then-President George W. Bush in his presence at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.
Last month, President Barack Obama invited Colbert to sit at a head table during a state dinner for French President Francois Hollande at the White House.
Colbert is not the first U.S. comedian to be accused of double standards by Asian-Americans.
Last year, the ABC network apologized after a child flippantly suggested to “kill everyone in China” in a segment where host Jimmy Kimmel asked what to do about the U.S. debt to the Asian power.