South Africa’s Trevor Noah just got an awesome promotion to host The Daily Show after Jon Stewart steps down. His pay is going to be something around R300 million a year ($30 million). Unfortunately, like anyone in such a public position, comes a host of relentless scrutinizers. It seems he now joins the legions of celebrities who’ve said regrettable things on Twitter + received the wrath of a frenzied public that goes with it. It’s almost like it was inevitable; a rite of passage of sorts. There was huge backlash on the Internet after tweets from his earlier years as a comedian were brought to light. These tweets were jokes of his, about Jewish people + women. In fact, critics say some of Noah’s nearly 9,000 tweets are sexist + anti-Semitic. CNN summarized them here. In my view, it’s hard to deny they were insensitive + offensive. It warrants an apology. To avoid an apology when a huge number of people are clearly insulted by them seems counter-intuitive.
But is my view of him tainted? Not really. It’s a huge achievement. He’s been a prominent figure in South Africa for years + I always enjoyed his shows. I like his humour. I always appreciated that while comedians who shared the stage with him swore a lot to drive a joke home, Noah never swore. I think he’s a polished + articulate ambassador for our country. Patton Oswalt had a hilarious response in a series of 53 tweets which defends the comedian. Below are some positive responses to the backlash:
Mr. Noah often posts irreverent statements that reflect his interests in popular culture, global politics and issues of race. As with many comedians, Mr. Noah’s jokes can test the boundaries of what is socially permissible and what is in bad taste
– New York Times
The guy made some sort of, you know, off-colour, irresponsible tweets, but he was trying to be funny.
– Aasif Mandvi
I’m not concerned if Trevor Noah made fat jokes five years ago, I just hope he has learned to raise the bar since then.
– Twitter user
Noah Taylor is a comedian, not a political aide for a possible presidential candidate nor is he a Communications executive for a media company. To hold him up to this kind of standard is absurd.
– Reddit user
I don’t think 6 years ago (when he was 25!!!) he knew they’d be getting this much scrutiny.
– Reddit user
This topic got me thinking about what happens when celebrities sully their reputations by tweeting inappropriate comments to their fans. Or when they say things on social media that could backfire. Is it something that happens often? Are they any less effective afterwards? It seems it is something that happens a lot. And I guess what happens after depends how they choose to handle it. Or how their employer does. I’m reminded of the Bill Cosby social media disaster last year which he never came back from. Even now, accusers are speaking more in depth about their rape allegations. Or Jessica Sacco, the PR executive who was fired over her racist tweet before boarding an aeroplane to Africa in 2013. In this case, Comedy Central has chosen to stand behind Noah. He speaks in the video below about how his career as a comedian up until now + how he feels prepared for this.
It amazes me how celebrities can use Twitter, knowing their reach + the scrutiny they’re under. They’re either too flippent or too emotional. Hopefully Noah can stay somewhere in the middle from now on. See some other examples below, as well as this awesome post about the 13 best deleted celebrity tweets.
In May 2009, Today show weatherman Al Roker was called for jury duty. In a thoughtless but ultimately harmless breach of court rules, Roker tweeted a photo of potential jurors. Oops. Roker was the butt of countless jokes after the media caught wind of his mistake, with the New York Post running the story under the headline, “Oh, What A Twit!” Roker apologized for the indiscretion, but also said that he thought people should lighten up a bit too. “I’m not breaking laws… just trying to share the experience of jury duty. One that I think is important and everyone should take part in,” he later Tweeted.
Mary J Blige
In July 2010, singer Mary J. Blige excitedly Tweeted that she had been accepted to Howard University. Unfortunately, the college then tweeted back saying that she was still in the application process and had not been accepted, causing a backlash amongst her fans. Blige then hilariously responded with, “Why is that people always try to understand estimate my intelligents? They should never do that!”
There’s no eloquent way to describe how Anthony Weiner offended people on his Twitter; tweeted a photo of his private parts in men’s underwear for the world to see. The man had once hoped to be mayor of New York City, but with a tweet of just 24 characters that consisted of a link, his political career and public image were completely destroyed. Originally, Weiner blamed the photo on hackers, but after investigations were done and other allegations were surfacing, the public had to face the fact that Weiner did indeed tweet the inappropriate photo. Weiner soon after resigned from his position.
“Bad Joke… But alotta those wives would make me consider it”, he was referencing the fact that Real Housewives of Beverly Hills‘ Taylor Armstrong’s husband, Russell, had committed suicide. From the show and recent press, the man was dealing with a lot of personal demons, a newly filed divorce, and accusations that he abused his wife. When news of his death surfaced, reality stars and celebrities tweeted out their support and condolences to Armstrong. But Ice-T’s insensitive tweet stuck out like a sore thumb. The “Law & Order: SVU” star and rapper’s comment was not appreciated and was heavily criticized on mass media and by Armstrong’s fan base.
“Taxes are DONE…That should feed, house & provide medical for a few lazy non working people at my expense. Have a great Monday!” The popular Gawker media blog Jezebel picked up the tweet and made their disapproving opinions on Baio’s tweet known, and it escalated into a near digital war between the blog site, Baio, and his wife. Then Baio’s fan base got involved in the fight and major news organizations picked up on the battle. It just goes to show you that if you’re famous and you want to maintain all of your fans, some personal political opinions may be best kept private.
The country music sensation found himself at the receiving end of accusations of being homophobic after he tweeted, “Rewriting my fav Shania Twain song.. Any man that tries Touching my behind He’s gonna be a beaten, bleedin’, heaving kind of guy …” LGBT leaders immediately criticized Blake Shelton for turning Twain’s song about female empowerment into a song about hate crimes. Shelton soon made a statement apologizing for offending people, saying that his tweet was misunderstood, and that it was originally meant to be from a female perspective. Most weren’t entirely convinced by this excuse.
When Tiger Woods was in the midst of his infidelity scandal, everyone had some words to say on the subject. Comedian and actor Jim Carrey was not excluded. He tweeted, “No wife is blind enough to miss that much infidelity. Elin had 2 b a willing participant on the ride 4 whatever reason. kids/lifestyle ;^)” The tweet was considered to be an odd Twitter attack on Woods’ former wife, and it sparked controversy as well as a mix of negative and positive feedback from his followers. Carrey had to clarify that he was not approving of infidelity and that Woods had to fix things within himself before trying to fix things around him.
Kim Kardashian came under massive fire from animal lovers and animal rights activists in 2010 after posting a photo of herself holding a kitten by the scruff of its neck. Perhaps it’s because she is a Kardashian, or maybe it’s because she was holding the internet’s favourite animal, but she was met with tons of accusations of animal cruelty and received much backlash for the tweeted photo. Kardashian didn’t apologize for her actions, but instead basically told everyone to calm down. She stated on her blog; “Rest assured, the owner and vet were on set and showed me how to pick him up. The cat was not harmed in any way and is perfectly fine! I love animals and would never do anything to harm animals.”
Gwyneth Paltrow got a lot of backlash for her tweet, “N****s in Paris for real” which divided the hip-hop community. The tweet was accompanied with a photo with Jay-Z and Kanye West. Several hip hop artists gave the actress a “free pass” to use the word, while other members of the community thought the tweet was offensive and disgusting. The mainstream media took the tweet and ran with the story, adding embellishments and exaggerations that only made the situation worse. However, Paltrow defended her actions saying that the tweet was the title of a song and was taken out of controversy. The controversy was named, “N-Word Gate.”
Jason Biggs found himself in hot water after he tweeted from his account @JasonBiggs, “Anyone wanna buy my Malaysian Airlines frequent flier miles?” This tweet occurred 65 minutes after it was announced that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 had crashed. Needless to say, the timing of the tweet, combined with the content, came across as insensitive, heartless, and making light of a tragic situation. Immediately after the tweet was posted, followers began to reply with their disgust over Biggs’ words. The offensive tweet was soon deleted and Biggs issued a four part Twitter apology, which was fairly well-received by the public.