In a preview clip from Friday's edition of her Netflix show, comedian Chelsea Handler strung together three minutes worth of jokes about the Trump administration being racist that included some strange claims.
Handler's show, which can actually be entertaining, often blends news and comedy in a fashion not dissimilar to what's done on "The Daily Show" or "Saturday Night Live's" Weekend Update segment. In fact, the clip released ahead of Friday's episode follows those formats pretty closely.
The segment is supposed to function as a darkly humorous explainer on various kinds of racism in modern America. As Handler tackled the Ku Klux Klan, she said Trump "likes" David Duke "because he enjoys anything that might wizz on him."
Inspired comedy, but misleading to viewers who would assume that joke was based on Trump actually expressing affection for Duke, a man he has repeatedly disavowed. That particular quip, however, is less questionable than what followed.
"Fun fact," Handler added moments later, "Donald Trump's dad was arrested after a Klan rally in 1927, which means Donald Trump has racism in his genes ..."
Here, Handler explicitly presents as "fact" something that's both misleading and not factual at all. The Washington Examiner's Eddie Scarry set the record straight on this unsubstantiated rumor just last month. Fred Trump was arrested after a riot broke out during a 1927 Memorial Day parade in Queens during which "Klan members ignored instructions not to attend wearing their white robes." He was held "on a charge of refusing to disperse from a parade when ordered to do so" and discharged. After this information resurfaced in light of Trump's new political career, it was presented deceptively by some in the press.
"It's not clear from the context what role Fred Trump played in the brawl," Philip Bump of the Washington Post was sure to note in his article on the topic.
Handler, on the other hand, presented it in such a way that viewers would be left with the impression the elder Trump was a racist who attended and got arrested at Klan rallies. Again, if the story is even correct, Trump didn't go to a "Klan rally," but a Memorial Day parade in his neighborhood in which (as happened in those days) the Klan had a presence. When a brawl broke out, he was arrested for failing to disperse and then discharged.
But I guess that doesn't make for such a good setup when you want to joke about the president having "racism in his genes."
Handler later transitioned into explaining that "black white supremacists" are "black people who think white people are better than them."
Among the people the comedian believes qualify as "black white supremacists?" Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, a celebrated neurosurgeon and philanthropist with his own children's charities. The man has a superior mind, superior skills, and superior accomplishments to just about anyone you can put up against him. The decision to toss him into that category is based on ... what, his political disagreements with a white comedienne?
Fact-checking comedians is for killjoys. But Handler is a self-styled political commentator these days, who's mocked both "fake news" and "alternative facts" to take digs at the president. If she wants to operate in a framework that blends comedy with news delivery, she owes it to her viewers to present the facts responsibly. And if she wants to criticize politicians and conservative media outlets for misleading people, she should evaluate her own act first.
Emily Jashinsky is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.