Skip To Content

    Jimmy Kimmel Is Under Fire For Seemingly Making A Xenophobic Joke About BTS, And People Are Bringing Up His Past Anti-Asian Comments

    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.

    Jimmy sitting at his desk on his show

    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.

    View this video on YouTube

    ABC / Via

    "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."

    Jimmy speaking onstage in a tuxedo

    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.

    BTS posing for a photo onstage in Times Square

    Ashley, who did a cover of BTS's "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."

    View this video on YouTube

    ABC / Via

    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.

    ARMY and others are angered by the allusion because BTS has repeatedly been the subject of xenophobic jokes, particularly with regard to COVID.

    Twitter: @remkoobi / Via Twitter: @remkoobi

    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. /+

    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.

    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. #JimmyKimmelRacist #StopAsianHate #CallOutRacismHateSpeech @ABCNetwork @JimmyKimmelLive @jimmykimmel

    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.

    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."

    BTS posing at a red carpet event

    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 that advocated for "killing everyone in China" as a solution to the US debt problem. People protested in response, leading Jimmy and ABC to apologize.

    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 OK!