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Gilbert Gottfried, Glenn Beck, 50 Cent take heat for offensive Japan comments

Gilbert What is it about a natural disaster that brings out tasteless, insensitive and downright horrifying comments from people in the spotlight? Whether it's incendiary talk show host Glenn Beck, comedian Gilbert Gottfried, rapper 50 Cent or TV writer Alec Sulkin, the inappropriate sound bites about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan have been coming fast and furious over the last several days.

The immediacy of Twitter, and its unfiltered, stream-of-consciousness nature, could be to blame for the spread of some of the thoughtless statements so quickly. The churn of a 24-hour news cycle and live TV, where CNBC anchor Larry Kudlow tripped up on Friday, also may take some of the heat.

But at the heart of the matter are the sentiments themselves, said Stuart Fischoff, senior editor of the Journal of Media Psychology, who sees a "reservoir of prejudice" against the Japanese people that's been unearthed by the disaster. See: tweets that reference Pearl Harbor.

"No doubt, there's a mordant sense of humor that comes out in times of stress," Fischoff said. "But in this case it's bringing up culturally accepted prejudice against the Japanese. We didn't see this during Haiti."

The backlash has been as lightning fast as the gaffes, with Gottfried getting fired from his long-time gig as the voice of the Aflac insurance spokescharacter after tweeting jokes about Japan. (These tweets have now been deleted.)

Joan Rivers, who's been known to use the ironic catchphrase, "Too soon?," stuck up for Gottfried via Twitter.

"Oh come on people -- this is outrageous! Gilbert Gottfried was FIRED from Aflac for making jokes about the tsunami in Japan. That's what comedians do!!! We react to tragedy by making jokes to help people in tough times feel better through laughter."

Gottfried apologized on Twitter on Tuesday. "I sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by my attempt at humor regarding the tragedy in Japan," he tweeted, continuing, "I meant no disrespect, and my thoughts are with the victims and their families."

Beck, a well-known provocateur, called the quake and tsunami a "message from God" on his Monday radio show, and carried on in that vein.

Meanwhile, hip-hop artist 50 Cent made an ill-advised surfing joke, and Sulkin brought up Pearl Harbor. Both have since apologized.

There's a lesson to be learned here about the unedited, real-time world of Twitter, but it's not yet known whether celebrities will take it to heart, Fischoff said.

"When you're on Twitter, you're not talking to a stranger or even just your friends," Fischoff said. "There is no private conversation."

-- T.L. Stanley

Photo: Gilbert Gottfried and the Aflac duck. Credit: Charles Sykes/Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (54)

Joan River's comment is pathetic. Does she really think that the Japanese people will laugh or feel better after hearing Gottfried et al's heartless jokes in times like this. This is another example of some of these Jewish comedians' arrogance and double standard at play. Would anyone dare make sick jokes like these in the media if a tragedy of such magnitude were to happen to Israel? River and Gottfried probably wouldn't. Anyone who would will instantly be hounded as an anti-semite to no end. By the way, if someone really wants to bring up the ghost of WWII, let it not be forgotten that there were at least some decent Japanese people who risked their lives to shelter more than a handful of Jews from slaughter.

I would NOT believe anything that comes from Glenn Beck...did he have his whiteboards and chalk filled with fake facts once again? He's taken so many pills that his braincells are a bit fuzzy....

There is a world of difference between humor and offensive and vile speech. How in the world can Joan Rivers think it is ok for Gottfried to make such a statement because he is a comedian? When it be ok for a trained sniper in the military to shoot defenseless civilians because "that is what they do?" I would like Rivers and the others to spend one week in Japan helping those whose lives have been devastated from this disaster. Maybe then it will not be so funny.

Morons. I expect idiocy from the likes of glenn beck. I'm sure he was frothing at the mouth. But I think that Gilbert Gottfriend was ridiculously stupid and he should know better. But glenn beck? I'm convinced he is totally insane.

Wonder how much the Aflac commercials gig was worth to Gottfried.

Q: What have all these brainless insensitive dorks got in common?
A: They are all smug rich folk who have lost their grounding in the real world.
Their crass comments and the smarty pants reasoning for spewing them show a total disreguard for any pain and suffering of others.
Not very clever at all.

The thing is, yes, you can make jokes AFTER the tragedy is over with.
The problem is, its still on going. People are still searching for loved ones and
there is a possibility that one or more of the nuclear reactors may release a
significant amount of radiation that will cause even more suffering.

Given the nature of AFLAC's business, which includes cancer care insurance of which a significant portion is sold in Japan, I can understand the sensitivity they might have for this issue. I think a suspension might be more in line, but I have not read his tweets so I have no way to judge the level of the problem here.

Lets take a moment and pray for the people of Japan and hope that things
get better for them soon. Since WWII they have been a strong ally and are
deserving of whatever respect and aid we can render.



Glenn Beck would be right at home at Westboro Baptist Church.

I believe we can see what is wrong with all the social media that now runs unfiltered on the internet. Bozos trying to make jokes about serious issues. Anyone with access to a computer can say anything with out even thinking. I for one want to see the face of whomever wants to say something about me. Be on my face so I can respond appropriately, like kicking your butt. These bully's rule the airwaves and they can hide behind their glasses, their monitors, and their insensitive prejudice without response. Thanks to all the creators of the internet social media, the world is such a better place thanks to your useless vision.


We only dropped several bombs in Japan after after their military effectively raped 1/3 of the world. The vast majority of Asia still holds a major grudge against that nation for their war crimes.

Our schools have an obligation to better educate their students on WW2. The Japanese empire was no less racist and destructive than Nazi Germany, who are personification of "hate" itself in American discourse. The internment of Japanese Americans and the use of nukes should be understood in the context of the comfort women and millions of Asians who were systematically displaced from their homes during that time. Had Isreal mistreated thousands of Germans in their nation (or dropped nukes), we would not excuse Germany for the holocaust.

Americans can't privilege parts of history because it can framed neatly in that Americanized sense of "discrimination". Manzanar (or slavery and indian genocide) was certainly an example of bigotry. So was what happnened in Nanking, Manchuria, Korea, etc. They're not some generic "war crimes" who might see in a PBS special.

I love Japanese culture and their people deserve our sympathy and discretion, but it's tough to see the typically uninformed Americans skewing history to support Japan's cause.

This article reeks of desperation. A reporter in search of a controversy.

Imagine 9/11; Katrina; 3 Mile Island; the killer tsuanami(s) in Hawaii (1960s) all happening to the West Coast of US at the same time and multiple this 10-100 times more...OH YES, it's only a joke on Twitter!!! Even our troops and their families in Japan may be at risk right now due to the Nuke Plants!

You mean someone actually listens to Glenn Beck? Gilbert there are times to be funny this wasn't one of them. 50 cent your brothers can't even find Japan on a map. We need to help the Japanese recover it's in our best interest to put our best foot forward for everyone. And that's no joke.

Someone forgot to notify Gottfried that he hasn't been funny since 1987.

What a pig. Sulkin, Gottfried, 50 Cent - that's the sort of trash that is allowed to, encouraged to and paid millions of dollars to 'entertain' you. That's the sort of trash that you listen to and see nearly every day of your life. The ignorant, angry, vapid and depraved ideas and ideals that birthed these 'jokes' are the every day topics of conversation at work, at home (if you have a home and not just a house) and at play. American society is rotting from the inside out and it is being paid to do it. Get the joke? Didn't think so.

These were good and kind people who lost everything. 50 cents? That is exactly what you are worth. More probably less. Mr. Gottfried and Mr. Beck, let's see how funny you think it is to watch everything you love disappear in a few minutes. You are ridiculing it, perhaps you are not capable of loving anything but ratings. Ms. Rivers... don't get me started on your comment about making people laugh in times of trauma. Did you make jokes about people on 9-11 as well?

I'm not amazed. These are the type of people that have to seek humor in others to make themselves feel good. It's really pathetic. I don't know why we stand for it. We, as Americans, watch these idiots and keep them in the spotlight. I hope "God's wrath" doesn't come after them.....better yet, I hope it slaps them so hard in the face. I'll pray for them. They need to find God and let him in their hearts. Just so disgusting!

All we need to consider - is this FACT:

If this Tsunami had hit Venice, Long and Malibu Beaches, the Japanese (Comedians, DJ's, talk-show-ilk) would not be cracking jokes or making inappropriate comments -

The example of just how trashy our culture has become - manifests at the worst of times - I am sad to say.

It's the same as P.J. Crowley and Schiller at NPR. Some people,very high profile people, have lost all sense of boundaries; what's fit for public consumption and what's not. Mindboggling.

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