APA leaders, ABC discuss Jimmy Kimmel incident

The Rafu Shimpo
Los Angeles Japanese Daily News


From left: ABC VP of Diversity Tim McNeal, Guy Aoki (MANAA, APAMC), Eugene Moy (Chinese American Citizens Alliance), Priscilla Ouchida (JACL, APAMC), Haipei Shue (National Council of Chinese Americans), Daniel Mayeda (East West Players, APAMC), ABC Broadcast Standards & Practices SVP Olivia Cohen-Cutler, and ABC Global HR SVP Steve Milovich. (Photo courtesy of The Rafu Shimpo)

In response to a skit aired on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on Oct. 16, 2013, top executives of ABC met with representatives of Asian Pacific American organizations on Jan. 24.

During the controversial episode, Kimmel held a “Kid’s Table” segment in which he posed a question to four children, “America owes China a lot of money, $1.3 trillion. How should we pay them back?” One child immediately suggested, “Kill everyone in China.”

Kimmel replied, “That’s an interesting idea.”

The skit triggered national protests and a White House petition drive that garnered over 105,000 signatures. Responses to the episode included charges of racism and promotion of genocide.

Following demonstrations throughout the country, ABC issued an apology for airing the skit, stating the segment should never have been broadcast. Kimmel apologized on the air and in writing, and met with concerned citizens to hear their viewpoints and apologize.

The “Kid’s Table” segment was pulled from all media, and the “Kid’s Table” was discontinued for all future shows.

The Japanese American Citizens League and the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition negotiated a meeting with Paul Lee, president of ABC Entertainment Group, to discuss the incident and formulate measures to prevent future ones.

According to ABC, the incident was the result of human error, and steps have been implemented to prevent such errors across the ABC spectrum. All material will undergo review in a dual system according to broadcast standards.

ABC acknowledged that such language can and does contribute to hate crimes. At the request of the organizations, ABC also agreed to the following:

– Work with community representatives to incorporate programming around Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in May to counter racial stereotypes and racism.

– Organize showrunner meetings with creative staff to promote the use of APA characters and stories.

– Conduct cultural sensitivity training for network staff.

“ABC deserves praise for stepping up and taking responsibility,” said JACL Executive Director Priscilla Ouchida, who is also co-chair of APAMC. “ABC demonstrated a willingness to view the portrayal of Asians in the media from a new perspective. The meeting enhanced the relationship between the Asian American community and ABC.”

OCA Executive Director Tom Hayashi, who attended the meeting, and OCA President Sharon Wong said in a statement, “It was important for the ABC executives to understand that the Jimmy Kimmel incident was not only offensive but that the language using Asians as economic scapegoats has incited violence against the community in the past, such as in the murder of Vincent Chin in the 1980s. Moreover, there are also recent examples of how hate speech has been used to bully and bring about assault leading to death, as in the case of Pvt. Danny Chen in 2011. We stand ready to advise and assist ABC to explore the introduction and enhancement of new and existing APA characters and themes. Additionally, we also wish to support an effort to diversify their officer-level leadership positions, such as CEO, CFO, COO…”

Guy Aoki, founding president of Media Action Network for Asian Americans, commented, “In order to assess when they’ve ‘crossed the line,’ I suggested they do ‘the substitution test’ where they substitute Asians/Asian Americans for other groups like African Americans and Jews and see how that looks in any given situation. So for the ‘Kid’s Table’ segment, if Jimmy Kimmel had asked kids about tension between the U.S. and Nigeria or Israel and one of them said, ‘Kill all the people in Nigeria!’ or ‘Kill all the people in Israel,’ someone at the network would’ve said, ‘Nahh, that’s in bad taste, let’s not use it.’ But people are so used to laughing at Asian people, no one at the network caught it.

“[ABC Senior Vice President of Global HR, Talent and Workforce Diversity] Steve Milovich said he’d previously talked to Tom Hayashi on the phone and Tom had suggested the same thing and that really resonated with the network.

“Paul Lee said for a full week, all of their company meetings began with that suggestion that, in order to assess if something is offensive or not, do the substitution test. So I’m optimistic that we’ve affected the culture of the corporation, so that these kinds of offenses can be avoided in the future.”

Also attending the meeting were Hope Hartman, ABC vice president of corporate communications; Olivia Cohen-Cutler, ABC senior vice president of broadcast standards and practices; Tim McNeal, ABC vice president of creative talent development; Ed Moy of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance; and Hapei Shue of the National Council of Chinese Americans. (end)

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