The White House has weighed in on a petition calling for the US government to crack down on Jimmy Kimmel Live, a television talk show that sparked a furor in China in October with a joke about killing Chinese people to avoid paying US debt to the country.
More than 105,000 people signed a White House petition calling for an apology after the show, broadcast on ABC, included a segment in which Kimmel asked a group of children how the US should pay back the US$1.3 trillion it owes China, the world’s second-largest economy.
A six-year-old said: “Kill everyone in China.”
Kimmel replied: “That’s an interesting idea.”
Afterward, Chinese-American groups protested outside the California headquarters of ABC, which is owned by Walt Disney Co, and the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs complained. ABC and Kimmel apologized for the segment.
The White House, which accepts petitions and responds to the most popular ones, said that ABC and Kimmel have “already apologized independently” and said that the comments “do not reflect mainstream views of China in the United States.”
“As the president has stated publicly, the United States welcomes the continuing peaceful rise of China,” the White House said in its official response to the petition.
However, the White House also said that the US constitution protects free speech and that the federal government cannot force ABC to “cut the show” as the petition had requested.
“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,” the White House said.