In a video shared exclusively with The Hollywood Reporter—and later shared on his social media platforms—the comedian claims that the piece fact-checking his work was “needlessly misleading” and omitted statements and corroborating messages he’d allegedly provided the publication during the reporting process.
“With everything that’s happening in the world, I’m aware even talking about this now feels so trivial,” Minhaj says in the video. “But being accused of ‘faking racism’ is not trivial. It’s very serious, and it demands an explanation. So to everyone who read that article I want to answer the biggest question that’s probably on your mind: Is Hasan Minhaj secretly a psycho? … Because after reading that article, I would also think that.”
Minhaj’s video addresses three key anecdotes that The New Yorker examined: His claim that a girl rejected him as a high-school prom date due to his race; his claim that he attended a mosque surveilled by an undercover FBI informant named “Brother Eric”; and his story about taking his daughter to the hospital thinking she’d been exposed to anthrax. The former Patriot Act host plays recordings of himself speaking with reporter Clare Malone, and he also shares text messages and emails that he allegedly provided during the reporting process to support his claims.
Minhaj claims that his would-be prom date’s mother really did say that they couldn’t go together because the family didn’t want a “brown boy” in their photos. He also provides emails and text messages between himself and “Bethany” (whose name he claims he changed for her protection) that he allegedly provided to The New Yorker to corroborate his claim.
Malone did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment. A representative for The New Yorker said in a statement, “Hasan Minhaj confirms in this video that he selectively presents information and embellishes to make a point: exactly what we reported. Our piece, which includes Minhaj’s perspective at length, was carefully reported and fact-checked. It is based on interviews with more than twenty people, including former Patriot Act and Daily Show staffers; members of Minhaj’s security team; and people who have been the subject of his standup work, including the former F.B.I. informant ‘Brother Eric’ and the woman at the center of his prom-rejection story. We stand by our story.”
Minhaj does admit to embellishing his other two anecdotes, which THR claims he’s “never denied,” but he also claims that because those stories were part of his stand-up act, the factual boundaries are different.
In the wake of The New Yorker’s piece, comedians debated how far one can push that line in comedy. But Minhaj also repeated some of these claims in interviews; speaking with The Daily Beast about the incident with his daughter, he said that it demonstrated “someone was trying to scare me or scare us. And it worked. It was really terrifying.”
“I just want to say to anyone who felt betrayed or hurt by my stand-up, I am sorry I made artistic choices to express myself and drive home larger issues affecting me and my community, and I feel horrible that I let people down,” Minhaj says in the video. “The reason I feel horrible is because I’m not a psycho. But this New Yorker article definitely made me look like one. It was so needlessly misleading, not just about my stand-up, but also about me as a person. The truth is, racism, FBI surveillance and the threats to my family happened. And I said this on the record.”
For more, listen to Hasan Minhaj on The Last Laugh podcast.