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Did 'The New Yorker' Do Hasan Minhaj Dirty?

By Dustin Rowles | TV | October 26, 2023 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | October 26, 2023 |


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When The New Yorker ran its piece on Hasan Minhaj, it led us to believe that the comedian made up stories to capture what Minhaj called “emotional truths.” Do we allow for liberties in the work of a stand-up comedian to illustrate a point? Yes. Do we allow for made-up stories? No.

The New Yorker, in the framing of its story, strongly insinuated the latter, not by making up their own story but by leaving out key details, according to Minjah in a 20-minute video rebuttal he released to The Hollywood Reporter. I find Minhaj mostly insufferable thanks to that Celebrity Jeopardy appearance, and no one should have to suffer through a 20-minute video. But I did, and I’ll be honest: Based on it and the evidence in the form of emails and interview excerpts with the outlet that he presented, I think The New Yorker did him dirty. Sort of.

Did the three events in question — the experience Minhaj felt after his prom date’s parents turned him away because he’s brown, the white powder from an envelope his daughter was exposed to, and his run-ins with undercover cops in surveilling Muslims in his community — happen exactly as he said they did in his special? No. But did they happen? Yes. Did Minhaj massage the details to suit his narrative? Yes.

But so did The New Yorker in its reporting on Minhaj by omitting emails and leaving out key quotes from interviews with Minhaj that provided more context. There were a number of ways that The New Yorker could have chosen to accurately report this story. They chose the most unflattering version to report. He was rejected by his prom date because of his skin color. He did receive a letter with white powder, and his daughter was in the same room. But The New Yorker pulled a Hasan Minhaj on its reporting of Hasan Minhaj. The difference is The New Yorker is not getting called out for it.

Minhaj, however, makes the spurious argument that his stand-up comedy should not be held to the same standard as his more rigorously fact-checked work on Patriot Act and The Daily Show. He’s wrong about that. There are expectations we have for journalists, and it is not on the viewer to make the distinction between journalist and comedian when the comedian is best known for his journalism. I don’t think that Minhaj, based on the evidence he presented, took any more license in his stand-up act than, say, Mike Birbiglia. But Mike Birbiglia was not up for The Daily Show hosting job.

At the same time, The New Yorker is a journalistic outlet, and we should expect them to present the most accurate version of the facts instead of the version that generates the most clicks. But we also know better.

tl;dr: Hasan Minhaj embellished — but did not fabricate — his stories in ways that other comedians likely do as well, but Minhaj is appropriately held to a higher standard because of his journalistic work. Likewise, The New Yorker reported the story in a way that would best suit its bottom line when it could have also accurately reported the story in a way that was far less damning.

There is no excuse, however, for the way that Minhaj behaved on Celebrity Jeopardy and that, in and of itself, is reason enough not to give him the hosting job on The Daily Show.

Source: THR