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Even Stephen Colbert thought this 'Colbert Report' tweet went too far

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A tweet from The Colbert Report account earlier today has people on Twitter embroiled in an argument over satire and racism.

The Twitter account for the satirically conservative Comedy Central show published a strikingly unsatirical, and some say straight-up racist, tweet Thursday afternoon.

The tweet, a tie-in to a segment on Wednesday night's show, was intended to be biting commentary about the hypocrisy of Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, who responded to criticism of his team's name by creating a foundation to help provide more opportunities for "Original Americans."

Unfortunately, 140 characters leaves little room for that kind of context. Without being paired against the Redskins situation, the tweet alone appears to be in shockingly bad taste.

To understand the tweet in its proper context, see last night's episode clip. The relevant portion begins around 4:50.


Though it has since been deleted, the tweet sparked a rare moment of heated backlash for Colbert, with offended Twitter users spawning the hashtag #CancelColbert. An intense divide split parts of Twitter as the hashtag quickly reached trending status.

Amid the turmoil, it seemed the vast majority of those using the hashtag were actually defending Colbert and railing against those who declared #CancelColbert in earnest:

The conflict behind the tweet seems to be a basic question of context and intent. Those defending Colbert say he's a comedian poking fun at racism. But if offense is caused, does it matter if the intent was to provoke commentary or be satirical? Those objecting to the tweet seem to feel that intent is irrelevant, and that Colbert's brand of satire does more harm than good. It's too close to "hipster -ism", a kind of inside joke that actually perpetuates the thing it's superficially trying to mock.

This isn't the first time Colbert has come under fire. Most notably, he's been taken to task for numerous statements on the Colbert Report that some viewers felt were transphobic. The angry side of Twitter hadn't forgotten those as it rehashed criticisms Thursday night.

As the debate raged, the official Colbert Report Twitter issued a new Redskins-related tweet that made the satire more clear. But offended viewers will undoubtedly be expecting an apology, either on Twitter or on Monday's live showing, if not both.

Update: The Colbert Report Twitter account clarified Thursday night that it's a Comedy Central account operated without oversight by Stephen Colbert or the show's creative team: 

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