The late-night host doesn’t think we should cancel problematic people, but rather challenge them.
Jimmy Kimmel doesn’t believe in canceling people. At least that’s the sentiment that seemed to come through in his new interview with The New York Times’ Kara Swisher for her Sway podcast. The Jimmy Kimmel Live! host was asked about a few of society’s most divisive figures: Tucker Carlson, Joe Rogan, and Donald Trump. And while Kimmel has been comedically hard on those men on his late-night show, he doesn’t think that their behavior merits canceling them — that is if you believe people can get canceled to begin with.
When asked about the divisive Fox News personality, Kimmel explained, “I don’t think we should cancel Tucker Carlson. ... Tucker Carlson is on commercial television. And if you don’t like Tucker Carlson, you should not buy the products that are advertised on his show. And if you feel like writing a letter to those companies, you should write a letter to them. But I don’t think it’s a good idea to shut people up, because I want to know where people are coming from. I want to know what they think. I want to know if they have horrible thoughts.”
Further, Kimmel doesn’t believe that Carlson actually believes what he says on the air anyway. He’s a “phony,” he explains, “an algorithim” who simply caters to Fox News viewership. “I think his audience created him. I think he started out as a fairly down-the-middle political broadcaster, in a cute little bow tie with polka dots on it,” Kimmel said. “And then Jon Stewart handed him his ass, and he had some kind of Lex Luthor moment where he, little by little, figured out what worked for him ratings-wise, which is primarily speaking to senior citizens like they’re kindergartners and scaring them with garbage.”
Kimmel was asked about another media blowhard, Joe Rogan — who also was Kimmel’s successor on Comedy Central’s The Man Show. Kimmel was equally lax on the bloviating podcast king, if not a bit dismissive. On the subject of Rogan propelling anti-vax attitudes, he said, “I don’t necessarily think that anybody should be shut up. ... I wish people would pay attention to the facts and I wish people were just consistent.” He admits that he thinks Rogan is funny, and he can recognize his appeal to his listeners. “I think that probably most of what he says is entertaining and fun to listen to. I know people who trust what he says, and I personally know people who have put themselves in danger because he minimized the importance of vaccines. But I also know that it’s not as black and white as sometimes the media makes it out to be.” Again, Kimmel puts the onus on the listener to decipher conflicting messages and downright misinformation, but at the same time, he wants to be able to hear the opposing points of view and call them out.
When it comes to the person who has stoked division and the spread of misinformation more than anyone, Kimmel surprisingly also doesn’t think Trump should be de-platformed either. He actually wants to have the former president on his show. “There are so many things I want to say to him,” he admits. “... And I know what would happen — there would be a hue of outrage from my friends on the left, and also outrage from those on the right who saw me interview him. But there are a lot of things I would like to say to him and ask him.”
It’s not abnormal for people in entertainment to be anti-cancel culture. It’s an idea that threatens their own jobs if anything bad were to ever come to light about themselves. And for liberal funny men like Kimmel, walking the line of turning an anti-cancel culture stance into a desire for dialogue is an art form. Trying to understand opposing points of view is commendable, but you can’t ignore the dangers of people like Carlson, Rogan, and Trump having outlets to espouse downright lies and unsubstantiated arguments that have real consequences. Much like when Jimmy Fallon ruffled Trump’s hair on his late-night show, letting these men seem normal amplifies their danger. Kimmel does understand their evil, though; he simply uses his own platform to call it out. And to him, that’s more effective than silencing them altogether.