Jimmy Kimmel
Chris Buck

Petition prompts declaration of ABC show's right to free speech

The White House on Friday responded to a petition calling for an apology after ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” featured a joke in October about killing Chinese people to avoid paying down U.S. debt.

The Obama administration responded to the petition after it received more than 105,000 signatures on the We the People site maintained by the White House.

The White House noted that ABC and Kimmel apologized for the joke, featured in a segment in which Kimmel is querying children about how the U.S. should payback China. The segment provoked protests among Chinese American activists.

“On a broader level, as the President has stated publicly, the United States welcomes the continuing peaceful rise of China. The comments you are writing about do not reflect mainstream views of China in the United States.”

Nevertheless, the administration said that free speech protects the show, and the federal government “cannot force ABC to remove this show.”

A portion of the White House response is below:

“The parties involved have already apologized independently. Jimmy Kimmel has apologized on-air, and issued a written apology. ABC has removed the skit from future broadcasts, taken the clip down from online platforms, and detailed several changes in its programming review process in response to this incident. You can find more about Jimmy Kimmel’s apology here, and ABC’s apology here.

“On a broader level, as the President has stated publicly, the United States welcomes the continuing peaceful rise of China. The comments you are writing about do not reflect mainstream views of China in the United States.

“The Federal government cannot force ABC to remove this show. The First Amendment of the Constitution protects free speech, even if individuals might personally find it offensive or distasteful. It may be upsetting when people say things we might personally disagree with, but the principle of protected free speech is an important part of who we are as a nation.”

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