Will cancel culture impact an institution as venerable on the Left as Saturday Night Live? Michael Che may soon find out, as even his own network arguably threw him under the bus yesterday. NBC News reported that a series of tasteless jokes about American gymnast Simone Biles appeared on Che’s account — including one a repost of one involving Biles’ sexual assaults by Larry Nasser:
Biles, 24, has mostly received overwhelming support after she pulled out of the team final and then decided not to compete in the women’s individual all-around gymnastics final in an effort to focus on her mental health.
However, screenshots of Che’s Instagram stories that were later posted to the BallerAlert Twitter account appear to show the “Weekend Update” host had other ideas.
“man, I want to make fun of simone biles,” one post said.
That was followed by this post: “I got like 3 mins of simone biles jokes in my head. im going to the cellar tonight to say them into a microphone. as the dorky kids say, im choosing violence.”
That might have been defensible, especially from an all-targets-are-valid comedian perspective. Biles isn’t off limits, although one probably should gauge their audience and tread lightly on that topic at the moment. Especially when your network is the one covering and promoting the Olympics. Right?
This, however, is a bit more difficult to defend — if Che was the one posting to the account:
Che’s account posted a joke someone had sent to him about Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics doctor and convicted sex offender who is accused of abusing hundreds of girls and women, including Biles.
“Goddamn that’s rough, absolutely tasteless 9/10,” the post said. The post also gave a racist joke someone sent about Biles an 8 out of 10.
Uh … wut?
Che tried claiming later that his account had been hacked, but even Che’s own network sounds skeptical:
Later, Che wrote in his stories, using the same background, font and format as the original posts: “maaannnn, i got hacked today. cant believe they got me. yall know i only do jokes about whites and cops. s’all good now, i changed my password and everything .. anyway yall hear about dababy tho.. ? Thats crazy .. iight. see yall at church. imma get there early.”
NBC commented afterward that they aren’t clear whether Che actually was claiming to be hacked or was making another joke. If that’s an actual defense, it’s lame — and if it’s a joke, it’s even worse.
We could play the “imagine if a conservative/Republican did this” game, but in this case it may be unnecessary. Che’s colleagues in the industry aren’t exactly rallying to his defense. They’re also unconvinced of the “hack”:
“How nice for Michael Che never to have been denied the sanctity of his own body because of his gender,” tweeted Soraya Nadia McDonald of the Undefeated.
“How nice for him not to be judged and gaslit repeatedly because it is routine to treat an entire gender and their experiences with disregard and contempt. How lovely for him.”
In response to his recent Instagram activity, Oscar-winning “Hair Love” director Matthew A. Cherry called the “That Damn Michael Che” star “trash,” while several others accused him of lying about his account being breached.
“Michael Che comes for people he thinks he can get away with dunking on,” tweeted freelance writer Delia Harrington. “Judging by his flimsy ‘I got hacked’ defense, it seems he had no idea how beloved Simone Biles is, or just how messed up it is to share a Larry [Nassar] joke.”
“Sexual assault/abuse survivors are not the butt of jokes. Ever,” wrote political commentator and analyst Ameshia Cross. “Be mindful #SimoneBiles sexual abuse occurred for years beginning in her childhood. #MichaelChe is a jerk for even touching the issue in this manner. And he’s a damn fool for coming back saying he was hacked.”
Biles would certainly be a legit subject for satire based on her performance at the Olympics this week, although even that would be fraught given the long history of abuse she suffered and her triumph over it. Expert satirists such as Trey Parker and Matt Stone at South Park could pull that off, but it wouldn’t be easy to fall into the kind of tastelessness that would torpedo such an effort. Making fun of her over her abuse, though? That’s, um … next level. And not in a good or defensible way.
Nor is it the first time that Che’s tipped over the line, which might explain the sharper reaction coming his way now:
It’s not the first time Che has come under fire. Multiple culture writers have documented how Che allegedly harassed them following their criticism of his work or SNL. During a “Weekend Update” segment in February, Che noted that Israel, which at the time had reported vaccinating half of its population against coronavirus, had only vaccinated its “Jewish half.” The line led Jewish organizations and Israeli leaders to accuse Che of leaning into “an antisemitic trope.” Others came to the comedian’s defense and even praised him for questioning Israel’s vaccination program.
Let’s see how many people come to his defense this time.
Update: I mainly agree with my pal Nathan Wurtzel on this:
Look, Che plays the edge. He shouldn't apologize. He's a comedian. He even admits he knew it wasn't right, but he can't help himself because…he's a comedian.
I criticized him for being (stupidly) anti-Israel, but I don't want him to shut up. https://t.co/rBdfDQYaT9
— Nathan Wurtzel (@NathanWurtzel) July 31, 2021
An apology might be in order for republishing the Nassar joke, but otherwise Nathan’s correct. If that’s the rule, though, then it should apply to everyone and not just those in venerable progressive institutions. And the truth is that double standards get applied on these situations.
Anyway, we’ll see what happens tonight, unless SNL is in reruns for the summer.