Jimmy Kimmel Is Receiving Backlash For Allegedly Making An Offensive Joke Comparing BTS Fever To COVID-19

It’s not the first time the South Korean boy band has faced xenophobia at the hands of talk show hosts.

Nearly two years into the pandemic and following an enormous spike in anti-Asian hate crimes, Jimmy Kimmel‘s latest joke about COVID-19 is striking viewers as incredibly insensitive, if not racist.

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In a recently aired monologue, the late-night host made a joke comparing coronavirus variants to the late ’90s boy bands craze. “These variants, all the different variants in the world right now, it reminds me of the boy bands in the late ’90s and early 2000s,” he began.

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“You had the big ones like Backstreet Boys and NSYNC, and then that mutated into O-Town and 98 Degrees. The JoBros popped up, Big Time Rush, they kept splitting off in different directions, eventually One Direction,” he continued. “And they took pieces and it popped up all over the world until eventually we get to one that’s so contagious it destroys all life on earth.”

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While the 54-year-old didn’t mention the immensely popular South Korean boy band BTS by name, many fans and viewers alike are saying the comparison is obvious — especially since he made similar jokes when speaking with Emily in Paris star Ashley Park last week.

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Ashley, who did a cover of BTS’ “Dynamite” on the show, revealed she got COVID around the time some members of the group — RM and V — acknowledged her performance, which she mistakenly thought was just a visceral reaction to being excited. In response, Jimmy said, “You thought it was BTS fever. They’re both very dangerous, you’re lucky to come out of those alive.”

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Fans think the joke is directed at BTS given that the group is currently the biggest band in the world. A global sensation, they’ve broken 25 Guinness World Records and boast the highest streaming numbers of all time of any group on Spotify.

Putting aside just how massively tone-deaf and un-funny it is to joke about millions of people dying, you have to wonder what the heck was Jimmy Kimmel thinking when he linked BTS to COVID. Because there is no universe in which likening human beings to COVID is funny. /+

04:38 AM – 29 Jan 2022

Twitter: @CSChungLaw / Via Twitter: @CSChungLaw

i don’t appreciate having random white and non-white males telling me to grow up when i shared my sentiments on Jimmy Kimmel’s racist remarks and “jokes”

i don’t need to grow up. you need to grow up and broaden your worldview and perspective and see how this is wrong.

03:13 PM – 29 Jan 2022

Twitter: @v_ari_7 / Via Twitter: @v_ari_7

why would you keep on comparing literal humans to a virus that took so MANY lives of people? Is racism comedy? this man literally has no shame, no humanity.


@JimmyKimmelLive @jimmykimmel https://t.co/gdpKOBmPAY

04:31 AM – 29 Jan 2022

Twitter: @jtoni_n / ABC / Via Twitter: @jtoni_n

Casually comparing BTS to a contagious virus that the Asian community has been vilified for is not just deeply offensive, it’s dangerous. I didn’t wait my whole life for an Asian superstar(s) to conquer America just to see them treated like this. But that’s America for you. https://t.co/RpS0ay2Snw

12:19 AM – 29 Jan 2022

Twitter: @Marie_Lu / ABC / Via Twitter: @Marie_Lu

The band previously released a statement recalling the racist experiences they’ve faced following the Atlanta spa shooting: “We have endured expletives without reason and were mocked for the way we look. We were even asked why Asians spoke in English. We cannot put into words the pain of becoming the subject of hatred and violence for such a reason.”

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“Our own experiences are inconsequential compared to the events that have occurred over the past few weeks. But these experiences are enough to make us feel powerless and chip away our self-esteem,” they wrote.

This isn’t the first time Jimmy has been called out for anti-Asian comments. In 2017, the Oscar host was under fire for mocking an Asian woman’s name. In 2013, he aired a segment which advocated for “killing everyone in China” as a solution to the U.S. debt problem. People protested in response, leading Jimmy and ABC to apologize.

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We’ll be sure to update you if Jimmy addresses the controversy. In the meantime, let’s just agree that any jokes making fun of COVID’s devastating toll on the world, especially in relation to an Asian boy band and in the wake of rising hate crimes, is not okay!