Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) found himself in some hot water on Friday.
According to Time Magazine’s Zeke Miller, the Senate Majority Leader “drew laughter from an Asian audience Thursday with a pair of Asian-themed jokes.”
“I don’t think you’re smarter than anybody else, but you’ve convinced a lot of us you are,” Reid said, deploying an Asian stereotype with batting an eye.
“One problem that I’ve had today is keeping my Wongs straight,” he added, noting that the common Asian surname has apparently made it difficult for him to distinguish one Asian-American from another.
Oh, gosh. That’s just Harry being his precocious self, the press implied. “My comments were in extremely poor taste and I apologize,” he later said. “Sometimes I say the wrong thing.” All is forgiven.
But this is not the first time Reid has stepped in it with his blunt racial talk. In the book Game Change, Reid was quoted as backhandedly praising Barack Obama saying that he was especially well-suited to a national campaign because he was “light skinned” and spoke “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”
What a scamp.
It’s hard to play everyone’s favorite game, “What if a Republican Said it!” with this one, because so few Republicans are as imprudent as Reid was here. Republicans know all too well that they will be savaged in the press for indulging in even mildly insensitive racial humor.
There are a few examples of conservatives in the media being berated by perpetually outraged liberal outlets for overstepping their bounds when it comes to making jokes appealing to Asian stereotypes, but few Republican officeholders have made that mistake.
One notable exception was Nevada politician and 2010 Republican nominee for U.S. Senate Sharron Angle who, during her campaign against Harry Reid, made the callous but nevertheless lighthearted assertion that a group of Hispanic students “look more Asian to me.”
Reid pounced. “I really don’t know what my opponent was talking about, because you all look like Nevadans to me,” he retorted to the cheers of both Nevadans and the political press alike.
“Her mouth does not have the ability to speak the truth,” he said of Angle at the time.
Recently, in fact, Reid has made a hobby of making sweeping assertions that Republicans of all stripes are hateful toward minorities. “They’ve done everything to dump on women,” the Silver State senator told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd in May. “They’ve done everything to dump on Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians, Gay and Lesbians, and … who else have I left off?”
Reid’s hypocrisy aside, the blatant duplicity of the liberal commentariat is far more flagrant. It seems like just yesterday that Comedy Central host and center-left favorite Stephen Colbert made a joke at the expense of the Asian-American community which was met with a campaign aimed at getting him fired.
“Last week on his Comedy Central show, Colbert resurrected his ‘satirical’ 2005 ‘Ching-Chong Ding-Dong’ skit, in which he speaks in pidgin English with a grossly exaggerated accent,” The New York Post reported in April. “He used it in a boneheaded attempt to ridicule Republican football team owner Dan Snyder and others who defend the Washington Redskins’ name.”
Get that? Colbert was attempting to skewer Republicans’ supposed racial insensitivity when he said that he was “willing to show the Asian community that I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.”
Last week, a group of diehard liberals, led by young Korean-American writer Suey Park, gave Colbert a hard time about his cringe-worthy act, which left the distinct impression that the real Colbert enjoys crude, ethnic-language mockery just a little too much.
Park and her liberal Twitter followers tenaciously questioned Colbert’s use of “satire” that ends up stoking the racism it purports to mock and abhor, using the incendiary hashtag #CancelColbert.
Colbert eventually issued an apology for this infraction. No word yet on whether Park and her ilk have launched a #FireReid campaign on Twitter.
This stereotyping of Asians has resulted in controversy for entertainers before. In 2006, The View host Rosie O’Donnell issued the most mealy-mouthed apology ever conceived by man after making a joke similar to Colbert’s (via People Magazine):
The controversy began when O’Donnell commented on a visit to the ABC morning show by a seemingly inebriated Danny DeVito, saying, “The fact is that it’s news all over the world. That you know, you can imagine in China it’s like: ‘Ching chong. Danny DeVito, ching chong, chong, chong, chong. Drunk. The View. Ching chong.'”
“So apparently ‘ching-chong,’ unbeknownst to me, is a very offensive way to make fun, quote-unquote, or mock, Asian accents,” O’Donnell said on the show. “Some people have told me it’s as bad as the n-word. I was like, really? I didn’t know that.”
“This apparently was very offensive to a lot of Asian people,” she added, shocked.
The reality is that Reid’s jokes were, while mildly insensitive, essentially harmless – far more harmless, in fact, than what Colbert and O’Donnell said. The reaction to Reid’s line has, however, been conspicuously muted. While the senator’s “jokes” were not intentionally hurtful and are relatively innocuous, the double standard applied to everyone who is not a key Democrat is not.