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Comedian Hasan Minhaj has broken his silence in an interview with The New Yorker

Friday, 27 October 2023 12:26 Lifestyle

In a 20-minute video posted on his social media pages and YouTube channel on Thursday, the 38-year-old Minhaj apologized to those who felt "betrayed or hurt" by his performances.

"The reason I feel awful is that I'm not a psychopath, but this New Yorker article definitely makes me look like one," he said.

The remainder of Minhaj's lengthy video is a deep dive into the "scandal." He challenged some of The New Yorker's claims and addressed three stories from the article: the threat of Siberian plague he mentioned in his 2022 Netflix special "Hasan Minhaj: The Royal Jester," the FBI informant story he shared in the same special, and an anecdote from his 2017 special "Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King."

"The truth is that racism, FBI surveillance, and threats to my family did happen, and I said it on record," he said.

In "Homecoming King," Minhaj recounted how a white girl named "Bethany" accepted his prom invitation but her mother later told him that she didn't want them going together, expressing concerns about her daughter being seen with someone of brown skin. The New York resident claimed that "Bethany" told him personally that she declined his invitation a few days before the event.

Minhaj stood by his story, saying, "Bethany's mom did say that. It was just a few days before prom, and I created a scene at the doorstep to immerse the audience in the moment I described to the reporter."

He also shared screenshots of alleged email correspondence with "Bethany," in which he congratulated her on marrying a person of color. "Bethany" purportedly responded with, "I think my parents have come a long way," which, according to Minhaj, is an acknowledgment of her family's past racism.

Minhaj also addressed "The Royal Jester," in which he claimed that an FBI informant he referred to as "Brother Eric" infiltrated his mosque and surveilled him during high school. The article stated that Minhaj fabricated a detail in the story where he claimed "Brother Eric" slammed him against a car hood.

In his video, Minhaj confirmed that such an incident did not occur. He explained that the anecdote was intended to shed light on the story of Hamid Hayat, an American Muslim of the same age as Minhaj, who lost 14 years of his life due to wrongful terrorism conviction after the events of 9/11, drawing a parallel during his special.

"The truth is that I had run-ins with law enforcement during my childhood, and this experience inspired this story, but it didn't happen exactly that way," Minhaj said. "So, I understand why people are upset. People face real dangers from the police, and false stories can undermine real ones. I'm very sorry I exacerbated this issue."

In "The Royal Jester," he recounted how he opened an envelope delivered to his home that was filled with white powder, some of which, he claimed, spilled onto his young daughter. The special then described how he and his wife rushed her to the hospital before realizing that the powder was not actually Siberian plague, a detail he admitted was embellished in the New Yorker article.

While he apologized for embellishing the story, Minhaj said that in February 2019, he did receive a letter with white powder sent to his apartment.

"I opened it in the kitchen, the powder fell on the table, and my daughter was just a few feet away from me," he said. "After 10 seconds of panic, I realized it wasn't Siberian plague, but someone f***ing with me."

He explained that he staged the hospital scene to immerse the audience in the same shock and fear that he and his wife experienced after opening the powder-filled envelope and that they chose to keep their panic about the Siberian plague secret, fearing Netflix would cancel his show.

A representative for The New Yorker, in an email statement to NBC News, said that the publication stands by its story.

"Hasan Minhaj confirms in this video that he selectively presents and embellishes information to emphasize his point: exactly what we reported," the representative said. "Our story, which thoroughly presents Minhaj's perspective, was carefully fact-checked and reported, based on interviews with over 20 people, including former 'Patriot Act' and 'Daily Show' employees; Minhaj's security detail; and individuals who were subjects of his stand-up work, including the FBI informant 'Brother Eric' and the woman at the center of the prom rejection story. We stand by our story."

The reporter who wrote the article also shared The New Yorker's statement on the X social media platform and added, "I stand by this story and urge people to read it in its entirety."

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