Ethics Quiz: Good Friend? Bad Friend? Jerk Or Weenie?

For the first Ethics Quiz of the new year, consider Patton Oswalt. The gnomish comedian and left-wing wit has long been on my hate list, not for his work, for he is extremely sharp and often very funny, but out of envy: he managed to snag the heart of lovely actress Meredith Salenger, his wife and one of my all-time Hollywood crushes, despite Oswalt looking like a nuclear accident victim. But that is neither here nor there.

What is here and now is this: Oswalt had posted photos memorializing a nice gesture by long-time friend Dave Chappelle on New Year’s Eve. Oswalt, who was doing small show in Seattle (he mostly does small shows, which explains why you may not have heard of Patton Oswalt) got a spontaneous call from Chappelle to come over to the nearby stadium and join him in Chappelle’s huge show. Oswlat wrote gratefully on Instagram,

“I waved good-bye to this hell-year with a genius I started comedy with 34 years ago. He works an arena like he’s talking to one person and charming their skin off. Anyway, I ended the year with a real friend and a deep laugh. Can’t ask for much more.”

Of course the social media mobs took after him for being a friend of that anti-trans bigot Chappelle. First, Oswalt took down all the hate posts, and then felt compelled to explain himself, writing,

I saw a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time this New Year’s Eve. We’ve known each other since we’re teens. He’s a fellow comedian, the funniest I’ve ever met. I wanted to post a pic & an IG story about it — so I did. The friend is Dave Chappelle. Thirty four YEARS we’ve been friends. He’s refocused and refined ideas a lot of us took as settled about race & history & Life On Planet Earth and spun them around with a phrase or punchline. We’ve done bad & good gigs, open mikes & TV tapings. But we also 100% disagree about transgender rights & representation. I support trans peoples’ rights — ANYONE’S rights — to live safely in the world as their fullest selves. For all the things he’s helped ME evolve on, I’ll always disagree with where he stands NOW on transgender issues. But I also don’t believe a seeker like him is done evolving, learning. You know someone that long, see the struggles and changes, it’s impossible to cut them off. Impossible not to be hopeful and open and cheer them on. Also, I’ve been carrying a LOT of guilt about friends I’ve cut off, who had views with which I couldn’t agree, or changed in ways I couldn’t live with. Sometimes I wonder — did I and others cutting them off make them dig their heels in deeper, fuel their ignorance with a nitro-boost of resentment and spite?

This is, if nothing else, honest, thoughtful and provocative. Patton is a thinking comedian. But then he felt that he had to apologize while declaring his LGBTQ bona fides:

I’m an LGBTQ ally. I’m a loyal friend. There’s friction in those traits that I need to reconcile myself, and not let cause feels of betrayal in ANYONE else. And I’m sorry, truly sorry, that I didn’t consider the hurt this would cause. Or the DEPTH of that hurt. I’ve been messaging a lot on IG today, and the back and forth has really helped guide me in the writing of this. I (naively) deleted a lot of posts in the comment thread — critical ones from LGBTQ writers AND shit-posts by TERF/anti-trans orcs looking for clicks & giggles. I wanted a “nice comment thread” about the pic with my friend. Ugh. So easy to think someone ELSE needs growth and miss the need in yourself. Gonna keep trying.

Conservative critic John Sexton holds that this sequence makes Oswalt look like a jerk:

So after saying how happy he was to end a bad year with his good friend Dave Chappelle now he’s sorry he didn’t consider the hurt having such a friend would cause? I mean, maybe people shouldn’t be demanding you stop being friends with a guy you’ve known for 34 years because they don’t like his opinions. Maybe that’s as far as this needs to go? Instead, Oswalt feels the need to spend the day apologizing to the people who crapped all over his nice moment with their complaints about what a bad person he is for having Chappelle as a friend…If an old friend does you a favor you don’t apologize for knowing them.

Later, Sexton cuts Oswalt some slack because an outspoken progressive can’t afford to buck the cancel culture.

In “Silverado,” corrupt sheriff Brian Dennehy unceremoniously fires his saloon manager because an old friend, played by Kevin Kline, has come to town and the sheriff/saloon owner/bully wants him to have the job. The fired man objects and draws his pistol, so Dennehy shoots him dead with nary a shrug of regret. A cowboy who had just befriended Kline’s character asks him, eyebrow raised, “You used to ride with that guy?” The implication: maybe you’re not the good guy I thought you were.” (Kline turns out to be a good guy after all, however, to Denehy’s sorrow.)

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Was it unethical—cowardly, disloyal—for Oswalt to apologize on social media for expressing his appreciation of a friend’s kindness?

19 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: Good Friend? Bad Friend? Jerk Or Weenie?

  1. I never thought we would see the day when we would have to apologize to strangers who we will probably never meet and have no interest in meeting for our choice of friends who we actually like and care about. This appears to purely be a phenomenon of the left. I have never heard of the right canceling anyone because that person dared to be friends with someone who was more to the left or even the center then to the right. If I have, it’s usually limited to cult type groups like The proud boys. There is no reason a police officer can’t be friends with a civil rights activist, or that a hunter can’t be friends with a yoga teacher. Yet, I submit to you that most likely the brotherhood in blue will not turn their brother out for being friends with Obalaji who is just trying to look out for the black community in the city. It’s more likely that Obalaji will get a load of crap from like minded but not known people on social media if he dares to mention that he is friends with Sergeant Bill. I submit to you that Jack who spends his weekends in a cabin in the mountains trying to shoot large forest animals won’t get too much grief from fellow hunters if he is friends with Leela the yoga instructor, although they may ask him about his “crunchy granola friend.” However, Leela is likely to be treated like a leper by her own community if they find out she’s friends with this uncouth animal killer.

    Those who have made a god of tolerance have become the most intolerant people in the world, and it doesn’t strike them as even the least bit ironic.

  2. Yes. It was cowardly. He did nothing wrong by posting the photo and he is allowed to delete comments from his social media that he finds objectionable.

  3. He slandered Chappelle with this line: “I support trans peoples’ rights — ANYONE’S rights — to live safely in the world as their fullest selves.”

    So does Dave Chappelle. Does he even listen to Chappelle’s routines?


    • That was what stood out to me, too. Chappelle, like JK Rowling, has never (as far as I know) called for any kind of harm to trans people, or opposed their right to be generally treated as whatever gender they wish to be. He has, however, taken the completely reasonable (and probably majority) view that those rights should not come at the expense of the rights of women.

      Suggesting that Chappelle is opposed to the safety of trans people is slanderous. If a longtime friend of mine said something like that about me, publicly, knowing it to be false (and I’m sure Oswalt understands the nuanced stance Chappelle takes on trans rights, whether he agrees with it or not), there’s a good chance the friendship would end there.

      If Oswalt truly believed that Chappelle is calling for harm to trans people, and he had any integrity, this wouldn’t have happened, because, friendship or not, he wouldn’t have gone to be in Chappelle’s show in the first place, right?

  4. Weenie butt. Gotta stay on the good side of the mob, eh Patton? Dave Chapelle just needs to get on the right side of history. You’re a gutless jerk.

  5. Yikes. With friends like that who needs enemies? The correct response would have, should have, been “Dave is my friend. Deal with it. If you have a problem, I suggested you go straight to hell.”

    The Trans Mob needs its knees cut out from under it.
    They no longer want inclusion; they demand compliance.


  6. I’m reminded of one of my favorite memes… “Way to make something not at all about you and make it about you.” So many LGBTQ feelings to consider when making a post that doesn’t involve them.
    He’s not a villain or weenie or a jerk. He’s doing the now “obligatory cultural response”. Enjoy the dish our society has created. The jerk is all the commenters who made him question his own bearings. We’re not made to mentally deal with this sort of feedback.

  7. This reminds of when Carrie Fisher died, Steve Martin made a nice tweet about his friend Carrie, got shat on, deleted it, and went silent weenie. Oswald goes full weenie (never go full weenie), giving an explanation why he’s such a weenie. I would say he’s also being a bad friend. If you have to preface your friendship with why you’re ashamed to be this guy’s friend, why not just give Dave the full Soviet denunciation treatment and get it over with. Then make a statement about diversity, tolerance, inclusion and how much you hate your enemies and want to kill them. If Dave accepts this kind of thing, he’s either too forgiving or has no self respect. Oswald can have the friendship of “the community” for 5 minutes, until he says the wrong pronoun or uses an archaic slur, like “sexual preference”.

  8. It probably won’t improve your initial dislike of Oswalt to observe that he has apparently had Salenger playing “picture” to his Dorian Gray (though with limited success on his end).

  9. Patton Oswalt is what would happen if you were to bury Rosie O’Donnell in the pet cemetery.

    People have touched on this before: I agree that a progressive comic probably can’t afford to buck the crowd too hard and expect to work ever again… So he made the choice to offer his friendship up as a sacrificial cow. He’s a weenie. There might have been a discussion in the background as to what he’s going to do. Oswalt’s a thinker, so is Chapelle. I’m sure Chapelle understands.

    But offering mea culpas and trying to distance yourself from someone who you disagree with, if in fact that was what Oswalt was even trying to do, shouldn’t require lying about what the person did to require distance. I find these performative fainting couch vapors particularly obnoxious, and it’s why I don’t take the complaints too seriously… If something is so self evidently bad, you should be able to accurate describe it, and other people would also find it bad, because that’s what “self evidently bad” means.

    “But we also 100% disagree about transgender rights & representation. I support trans peoples’ rights — ANYONE’S rights — to live safely in the world as their fullest selves.”

    Gag. Me. With. A. Spork. We’re supposed to believe now, that what Chapelle said in his comedy sketch impacted people’s *safety*? No. No, that’s just a lie. But someone who might not have heard Chapelle’s bit might end up believing that, and that becomes the third-person reality. If Oswalt felt the professional need to self flagellate or strap on a cilice, not great, but understandable. Tossing your buddy under the bus with lies to appease the progressive volcano Gods takes it about five steps further than he needed to go.

    And yet, he did it.

    • Oswalt’s brain is, I assume, how he snagged the beautiful Ms. Salenger, who was a Harvard undergrad, has a couple advanced degrees, and works as a mediator when she isn’t acting. The two do a podcast that is intermittently entertaining. It’s just a shame that so many of the smartest public wits can’t bring themselves to skewer all sides and ideologies. Mort Sahl got it; so did Will Rogers and H.L. Mencken, Johnny Carson and Fred Allen.

  10. I vote Jerk. He wanted the recognition that came from being in a picture with Chapelle but also wanted the approval of the left and their viciously schizophrenic rants of the day. Who is to know what one day is fine and the next day makes you a Nazi? With a group like that any apology for just being yourself is useless at best or counterproductive because they will use this picture against him whenever it fits their need regardless of what he has to say about it.

    He should have left the picture at that and just accepted the comments, or not posted the picture in the first place. What changed in the time from when he posted the picture to when he had to issue a bunch of statements? Nothing but the uninformed and bi-polar opinions of a bunch of virtue signaling nobodies who just want to feel important on the backs of the very people they are pretending to defend, until they decide that this group is no longer worthy of their attention and they move on to worshiping the next group that is in vogue.

  11. “despite Oswalt looking like a nuclear accident victim.”

    “Patton Oswalt is what would happen if you were to bury Rosie O’Donnell in the pet cemetery.”

    “Weenie butt. Gotta stay on the good side of the mob, eh Patton? You’re a gutless jerk.”

    “Dave is my friend. Deal with it. If you have a problem, I suggested you go straight to hell.”
    “The Trans Mob needs its knees cut out from under it.”

    Exactly how to deal with radical Left proglibocrats!
    Dang I love this site, inspirational.

    • Progressives, generally, take themselves far too seriously. Sometimes mockery is the correct solution, particularly in dealing with the absurd. And sometimes an absurdity doesn’t warrant the time it would take to properly debunk it. The best part about all that is that progressives, again generally, don’t take mockery well at all, so the correct response is also the one that feel really good in a very guilty pleasure kind of way.

      Patton Oswalt having a picture taken of him siting contemplatively in his kitchen, writing on a legal pad while ostensibly thinking up the groveling, sniveling, dishonest response he prepared in response to the outrage that was him having the unmitigated audacity to have a picture taken with his friend is absurd. It’s unserious to the point of insult. If I choose to answer more substantively than to point out that the hospital Patton Oswalt was born in had to use tinted plastic on his baby incubator because he was scaring the other children, then that’s a testament to my patience and goodwill towards… things that are vaguely man-shaped.

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