Earlier on his radio show, Rush Limbaugh complained about the joint press conference with Chinese President Hu Jintao and how Jintao was not being translated. To illustrate his complaint, he spent 15 seconds doing an impression of the foreign leader, complete with a bunch of guttural “ching ching chongs” like the grade school approximation of what the Chinese language sounds like. There will inevitably be a backlash from Asian and anti-defamation groups. The only question now is, will it be as bad as it was for Rosie O’Donnell in 2006?
O’Donnell infamously did an imitation of a Chinese newscaster reporting while describing how wide spread the story of Danny DeVito’s drunken View appearance had gotten, exclaiming that “even in China” people were talking about it. The media seized upon it, especially those on the Right who loved the apparent hypocrisy of a Liberal who had been so loud in decrying anti-gay slurs and jokes now mocking another minority. A post on Newsbusters summed it up, asking “where is that same liberal media now when one of their own is accused of making fun of a minority group?”
Well, will the same people who urgently called for O’Donnell to apologize or be fired appear again this time? And, should they?
The safest way for an entertainer to avoid looking racist is to ask themselves, “Am I saying one person acts a certain way, or a whole group does, thus denying the possibility of any exception?” Imitating a specific language, by nature, is imitating an entire group. But does that mean no stand up, actor, or TV and radio host can ever imitate another language? Another interesting question is to ask why imitating Chinese sounds so much worse than, say, babbling a bunch of “bonjour’s” and “S’il vous plaît’s” and calling yourself French. It’s a question that I have no answer to, but one that would lead to a fascinating conversation I’m sure.
Race issues like these are always difficult. Just look at Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s recent attempts to claim a “double standard” in the Right and Left’s use of the N-word. Just like in that situation, perhaps it would be better to look at the intent of the “ching chongs” instead of their usage alone.
However, that’s not the question that people are going to be having. In this political climate and with two people as disliked by some as Limbaugh and O’Donnell, the only conversation will be about who got punished more, not what the meanings of their comments were.
So, I ask again: Will Rush Limbaugh be held to the same standard as Rosie O’Donnell?
Below you can see video of both today’s Limbaugh quote and O’Donnell’s 2006 quote:
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