Comedy Central defends new ‘Daily Show’ host Trevor Noah
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Comedy Central defends new ‘Daily Show’ host Trevor Noah

South African comedian faces backlash over series of past tweets deemed anti-Semitic, misogynistic

In this photo taken Oct. 27 2009 South African comedian Trevor Noah is photographed during an interview. (Photo credit: AP/Bongiwe Mchunu-The Star)
In this photo taken Oct. 27 2009 South African comedian Trevor Noah is photographed during an interview. (Photo credit: AP/Bongiwe Mchunu-The Star)

A day after Trevor Noah was declared the new host of “The Daily Show,” his graphic tweets targeting women and Jews are causing a social media backlash and Comedy Central is defending its newest late-night star.

By Tuesday, Trevor Noah was a trending topic on Twitter as he drew fire for jokes described as tasteless, hateful — and unfunny. Roseanne Barr was among those calling out the 31-year-old South African comic, who has an international following and two million Twitter followers.

“U should cease sexist & anti semitic ‘humor’ about jewish women & Israel,” she tweeted late Monday.

In a statement, Comedy Central defended Noah as a “provocative” comedian who “spares no one, himself included.”

“To judge him or his comedy based on a handful of jokes is unfair,” said the network, adding that he has “a bright future at Comedy Central.”

In a statement, ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said that he hopes that “The Daily Show” remains “funny and irreverent without trafficking in bigoted jokes at the expense of Jews.”

“B’nai B’rith is concerned about the long history of anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and misogynistic tweets by the new choice to host the popular comedy program, The Daily Show,” the organization said in a statement issued Tuesday. “We recognize that the platform The Daily Show provides its host is different from the stand-up comedy circuit, and we are hopeful that Noah will use this new and larger role responsibly on complex, sensitive issues.

Noah made three memorable appearances as a correspondent on the show starting in December of last year, in which he skewered American (and more generally Western) views and stereotypes of Africa.

Born to a black South African mother and a white Swiss father (when interracial relationships were illegal in apartheid South Africa), Noah is already a star in his home country, where he has filmed several stand-up specials. In 2012 and 2013 he became the first South African comedian to perform on “The Tonight Show” and “The Late Show with David Letterman” respectively, and in 2012 he was the subject of a documentary called “You Laugh But It’s True.”

JTA highlighted this 2010 tweet on Monday as proof that Noah “probably won’t be appearing at next year’s American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference.

Then there was this, from 2009.

And Buzzfeed followed up with this one from 2012.

https://twitter.com/DAVIDMDRAIMAN/status/582735008986570753

And this one from last year.

It also highlighted a series of offensive tweets about women:

https://twitter.com/Trevornoah/status/141229204829249536

By Tuesday morning, Time was reporting the “backlash” against Noah over his Twitter history, including what it called “a few jokes that were quickly deemed ‘anti-Semitic’ and ‘sexist.'”

Viewers had been calling on Comedy Central to appoint someone well-known like Tina Fey or the fan-favorite “Daily Show” correspondent Jessica Williams to succeed Stewart (overall, the insistence on having a female host in the male-dominated world of late-night comedy was also a constant).

Fans of the Show were always going to be keenly interested in his views on the hot-button political topics that Stewart has never been afraid to address — especially the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Stewart has been one of the only mainstream American comedians to harshly critique Israel’s stance towards the Palestinians. Even HBO “Real Time” host Bill Maher, one of this era’s most outspoken and unapologetically liberal comics, is usually seen as more pro-Israel than Stewart (and has even been pegged by some as anti-Muslim because of his views on Muslim extremists).

Meanwhile former “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno, who will travel to Israel in June to host the Genesis Prize award ceremony for the second consecutive year, recently told the Associated Press, “It seems like (Israel has) the worst PR in the world,” adding “I don’t understand how Israel is the bad guy here. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”

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