How Will Disney Handle the ABC and Jimmy Kimmel Protests?

Over the weekend there was something very unusual: nationwide protests against Jimmy Kimmel and ABC over racism. The protest that I saw was on Saturday afternoon in Houston by the jam-packed Galleria, at the busy intersection of Westheimer and Post Oak Blvd. The protesters had signs calling for Jimmy Kimmel to be fired and calling for ABC to stop racism against the Chinese. It was also calling for no fake apology. This issue has been going on since October, and it seems to be continuing rather than dissipating.

There were probably a couple of hundred protesters at the Houston protest at the time. ABC now has a situation that it will have to do some serious damage control on very soon. Jimmy Kimmel’s “Kids Table” asks kids questions about current events, and it was not actually Kimmel himself who made the offense.

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At issue is that ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS). Attacking ABC is one thing. The issue is whether or not this spreads to attacking the Disney parent company or not. Then you have to wonder what happens if protests were to start boycotts or advertiser backlash.

One of the kids on the live show suggested that the way the U.S. should deal with its ballooning debt is to kill all the people in China. Kimmel’s apology came over a week ago, and where this gets interesting is that Kimmel was not the one who made the comments. He also even tried to defuse the situation after the comments. Where the protests were pointed is that the entire skit should have not been shown at all.

It has already been shown that ABC is no longer going to air the “Kid Table” segment. Now the White House has a We The People petition that has over 103,000 signatures seeking a “sincere apology.” Jimmy Kimmel has over 3.2 million followers on Twitter, and the @JimmyKimmelLive also has 345,000 followers.

How this all plays out is something that remains to be seen. The calls for “No Fake Apology” and “Fire Jimmy Kimmel Now” may grow louder. This also challenges many aspects about what editors of shows have to decide.

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Networks are of course responsible for when their public faces are involved in scandals of this magnitude, but what about when the scandal is actually caused by one of the guests on a show? The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) does face issues of this magnitude from time to time. The question is how this will be dealt with, and then what precedent it sets going forward.

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