“Africa won the World Cup. I get it, they have to say it’s the French team. But look at those guys. You don’t get that tan by hanging out in the south of France, my friends.”
—-Trevor Noah, host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show”
Noah, who is black, was immediately accused of racism. “So basically, Trevor, all the African-Americans in the US are just Africans, right?,” said one critic. “Know that as a French of Algerian, German and Spanish descent, I find it insulting. We are all French, we are one people. Ask the players,they’ll tell you they’re proud Frenchmen!”
Your more complicated-than-it-looks Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:
Does Noah have anything to apologize for?
I mean, other than that fact that his joke isn’t particularly funny.
In truth, he shouldn’t have to apologize for that. Putting together a daily comedy show is difficult, hit-and miss, and guaranteed to result in frequent duds. An edgy, satirical show is guaranteed to have duds that tick people off. The bad jokes are an unavoidable part of the process of finding the good ones.
However, racist is a problem even if the joke was hilarious (as Noah’s typical “anything this progressive black man says is funny” audience laughed acted as if it was).
1 One reason I don’t watch “The Daily Show” (and didn’t often even when Jon Stewart was the host, and he was a more talented comic) is that it’s a fraud. A political satire show’s orientation should be non-partisan and distribute its barbs across the political spectrum, or it is really just a partisan ally and a propaganda device. Thus it is hard to not find it satisfying when a Democratic Party, progressive shill like Noah offends the Left inadvertently. Of course, if he offended the Right, he would never apologize. He would gloat.
2. “He’s a comedian!” would be a defense, except that he is only half a comedian. He makes serious commentary as well, as did Stewart. The “now I’m a clown, and can say anything”/ “now I’m a pundit, and want to be taken seriously” act is cynical and slippery, and I don’t accept it. Noah, like Samantha Bee , like Stephen Colbert, like Alec Baldwin and many others, is a political pundit who uses jokes and the mask of clown to duck accountability.
3. How much of Noah’s comment was a joke? Maybe French blacks consider themselves French and nothing else, but the rhetoric from Black Lives Matters, black student groups and black leadership in the Democratic Party in this country leave the loyalties of American blacks open to debate. How does his joke’s assessment of black loyalties line up with accusations that NFL players protesting during the National Anthem are impugning the nation itself?
4. As other have noted, what if Noah’s comment had been about NBA championship rather than the World Cup? Would that comment be considered a joke?
5. Does Noah’s race change anything?
6. Stipulated: if a Republican Party chairman, or a Republican elected official, or a Fortune 500 CEO, or a Fox News anchor, or you-know-who, said what Noah did, and made it clear at the time that it was a joke, he or she would have to resign or be fired, and would be branded a racist for life.