This September, the comedy world was shocked when The New Yorker alleged that former Daily Show comedian Hasan Minhaj fabricated many elements of stories in his stand-up act. One event in particular—about a mother who wouldn't let Minhaj take her daughter to prom, due to racist beliefs—was reportedly untrue. In the weeks since, the story has raised questions about honesty in stand-up comedy entirely.
In his first lengthy response to the profile, Minhaj shared an exclusive 20-minute video to The Hollywood Reporter, which breaks down the story and its claims. “There were omissions and factual errors in The New Yorker article that misrepresented my life story, so I wanted to give people the context and materials I provided The New Yorker with full transparency,” Minhaj told The Hollywood Reporter. Done in classic The Daily Show fashion with graphics next to his head, the comedian provided more context to his answers in The New Yorker story. You can watch the entire video above.
“With everything that’s happening in the world, I’m aware even talking about this now feels so trivial,” Minhaj said in the video. "But being accused of ‘faking racism’ is not trivial. It’s very serious, and it demands an explanation. To everyone who read that article... I want to answer the biggest question that’s probably on your mind: Is Hasan Minhaj secretly a psycho? Underneath all that pomp, is Hasan Minhaj just a con artist who uses fake racism and Islamophobia to advance his career? Because after reading that article, I would also think that."
Apologizing to his fans, Minhaj restated that he "made artistic choices to express myself and drive home larger issues affecting me and my community." He also felt "horrible" that people were "betrayed or hurt by his actions."
"The reason I feel horrible is because I’m not a psycho," he continued. "But this New Yorker article definitely made me look like one. It was so needlessly misleading, not just about my stand-up, but also about me as a person. The truth is, racism, FBI surveillance and the threats to my family happened. And I said this on the record."
Minhaj also claimed that the prom incident between himself and "Bethany Reed"—as he called her in the stand-up special to protect her identity—was largely based on facts. According to the comedian, Bethany's mother said that they could not go to prom together, because they didn't want their daughter in photos with "a brown boy." The incident's only embellishment? Minhaj says it did not occur on the same day as prom. "Bethany’s mom really did say that—it was just a few days before prom," Minhaj said in the video. "I created the doorstep scene to drop the audience into the feeling of that moment, which I told the reporter." The comedian also plays a recording of the interview between himself and The New Yorker reporter Clare Malone discussing the exact scene. He also provided emails with Bethany, where the woman thanks him for protecting her identity.
“My team and I repeatedly tried to give them the emails you just saw," Minhaj alleged. "We confirmed the emails were sent to the reporter and their fact-checker before the article came out. They knew my rejection was due to race. I confirmed it on the record and provided corroborating evidence. And yet they misled readers by excluding all of that and splicing two different quotes together to leave you thinking that I made up a racist incident."
In a response to Minhaj's video, The New Yorker sent Hollywood Reporter their own statement backing up their story. "Hasan Minhaj confirms in this video that he selectively presents information and embellishes to make a point: exactly what we reported," the statement read. "Our piece, which includes Minhaj’s perspective at length, was carefully reported and fact-checked. It is based on interviews with more than twenty people, including former Patriot Act and Daily Show staffers; members of Minhaj’s security team; and people who have been the subject of his standup work, including the former F.B.I. informant 'Brother Eric' and the woman at the center of his prom-rejection story. We stand by our story."
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