Jimmy Kimmel gets backlash comparing BTS fever to COVID
This is not the first time the South Korean boy band has faced xenophobia from talk show hosts.
Nearly two years into the pandemic and following a huge spike in anti-Asian hate crimes, Jimmy Kimmel’s latest joke about COVID-19 strikes viewers as incredibly insensitive, even racist.
In a recently aired monologue, the late-night host made a joke of comparing variants of the coronavirus to the boy band craze of the late ’90s. “These variants, all the different variants of the world in this moment reminds me of boy bands in the late 90s and early 2000s,” he began.
“You had the big ones like Backstreet Boys and NSYNC, then it mutated into O-Town and 98 Degrees. The JoBros came up, Big Time Rush, they kept splitting up in different directions, eventually One Direction,” a- he continued. “And they took pieces, and it popped up all over the world until we got to one that’s so contagious it’s destroying all life on earth.”
While the 54-year-old didn’t mention the name of the hugely popular South Korean boy band BTS, many fans and viewers say the comparison is obvious – especially since he’s made similar jokes speaking with Emily in Paris star Ashley Park last week.
Ashley, who did a cover of BTS’s “Dynamite” on the show, revealed that she had COVID around the time some band members – RM and V – recognized her performance, which she mistakenly thought to be just a visceral reaction to arousal. In response, Jimmy said, “You thought it was BTS fever. They’re both very dangerous; you’re lucky to make it out alive.”
The group previously released a statement recalling the racist experiences they faced after the Atlanta spa shooting: “We endured swearing for no reason and made fun of our appearance. We were even asked why Asians speak in English. words the pain of becoming the subject of hatred and violence for such a reason.”
This isn’t the first time Jimmy has been called out for anti-Asian comments. In 2017, the Oscars host came under fire for mocking an Asian woman’s name. In 2013, he aired a segment that advocated “killing everyone in China” as a solution to the US debt problem. People protested in response, leading Jimmy and ABC to apologize.
We’ll be sure to update you if Jimmy addresses the controversy. In the meantime, let’s just agree that any joke poking fun at the devastating toll of COVID on the world, especially as it relates to a group of Asian boys and in the wake of increased hate crimes, is not acceptable!