When comedians get it wrong


If you watched the above video without context, you would think that Donald Trump is an idiot who can’t remember the infamous date of one of the greatest tragedies in modern American history — the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

After Trump gave that speech at a rally in Buffalo, NY, comedians and the media used the clip to call the Republican front-runner out for misspeaking and mistakenly honoring a convenience store.

However, amidst the mockery, some news sources pointed out that Trump hadn’t misspoken — it was the public that had misunderstood. Rather than saying the wrong date, Trump was referring to New York Fire Station #711, the very first responders to the 9/11 attack.

Makes more sense, right?

Now, I am not here to defend Trump. However, I am deeply committed to truth, and I think it’s important to acknowledge when a mistake has been made. And frankly, it is unlikely that Trevor Noah or anyone else will issue an apology for wrongfully mocking Trump (on this occasion).

Most of the people who already saw that clip will probably continue to think that Trump made that ridiculous error, and they will continue share that information with others.

Any why wouldn’t they? In this case, the truth is less entertaining and enraging than fiction. Plus, doesn’t Trump stay stupid things all the time?

However, this sort of thinking only perpetuates the spread of misinformation.

I write a lot on this blog about how political satirists are in a position that allows them to serve as a check on the mainstream media. And while I believe this is often the case, I will admit that late-night comedians aren’t always in the right.

Sometimes comedians tell jokes that cross the line, or punchlines that might be misguided.

When mistakes like this happen, though, I feel that they should own up to it.

Unlike the press, satirists aren’t expected to issue corrections or rescind a joke that may not have been factually correct. However, in order to uphold some sense of credibility, I think that comedians who deal with real people and issues — albeit humorously — have the responsibility to remain truthful in their jokes and depictions.

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