Jimmy Kimmel Live upset Chinese communities when a six-year-old guest on the show suggested that the US “kill everyone in China” in order to solve its debt crisis. The comment was made in a segment called “Kid’s Table” where Kimmel asks children for their opinions on the news, creating a comedic juxtaposition of childlike naïveté and political discourse. The skit has sparked a response from Chinese-Americans and the Chinese government. “China has declared a cold war on Jimmy Kimmel,” writes Daily News.
The incident took place on Oct. 16 when Kimmel asked his young panel how the US should repay the $1.3 trillion it owes China. The boy replied: “Shoot cannons all the way over and kill everyone in China.” This drew a laugh from Kimmel, who is always fond of the offbeat and immature. He turned to the other four children: “Should we allow the Chinese to live?” which drew a mixed response of yes and no. Jimmy jests at the children’s silly bloodlust, calling it the “Lord Of The Flies edition” of Kid’s Table.
Protesters gathered outside of the Los Angeles studio, carrying placards calling for Kimmel to be fired for “promoting genocide.” Both Jimmy Kimmel and representatives from ABC have issued numerous apologies for airing the comments, but this has not been enough. The government of China has recently joined in the flurry of condemnation. “Spreading racism and hatred goes against the media’s social responsibility,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang. Some have called for Jimmy Kimmel’s show to be discontinued.
Jimmy Kimmel Live is broadcast on ABC, a Disney-owned company. Disney is partnered with a state-owned Chinese company, Shanghai Shendi Group, and it is aggressively expanding into the Chinese market. A $4.4 billion Disneyland theme park is being built in Shanghai, scheduled to open in 2015. Disney is also planning to open the world’s biggest Disney store, a 10,800-square-foot behemoth in Pudong. China also has a chain of Disney-branded English schools. The protests against ABC could turn into protests against Disney, and this could have disasastrous consequences for these latest ventures. The offhand comments of a laughing kid may have economic ramifications far and wide.
ABC has taken steps to remove the segment from future broadcasts and its online content, but the clip can still be viewed on YouTube. ABC also claimed to have updated its Standards & Practices so that similar incidents will not happen in the future. Furthermore, the Kid’s Table segment will no longer be a feature on the show.
There is a common feeling in Chinese-American communities that the US does not take discrimination or hate speech against the Chinese seriously, as it would if similar comments were made against other minority groups–blacks, Muslims, or Jews, for instance. A petition with over 100,000 signatures has reached the White House, which is the minimum necessary to prompt a response. Many in China remain upset at ABC and Jimmy Kimmel Live despite the constant apologies.
By K. Elsner