To say that James Corden has bad judgment would be an understatement. For the second time in as many months, the Late Late Show host has had to apologize in the face of strong backlash to his poor judgment and poor taste. Last month, it was cozying up to Sean Spicer at the Emmys; this month, it was making inappropriate, offensive quips about Harvey Weinstein’s behavior at the AmfAR Gala in Los Angeles on Friday night.
“It’s a beautiful night here in L.A.,” he began, before proceeeding to make light of a traumatic incident allegedly experienced by dozens of women. “So beautiful, Harvey Weinstein has already asked tonight up to his hotel to give him a massage.”
“It's been weird this week though, watching Harvey Weinstein in hot water,” he continued, seemingly unaware that Weinstein's long list of victims are real people. “Ask any one of the women who watched him take a bath, it's weird watching Harvey Weinstein in hot water.”
The negative feedback was instantaneous, not that the comedian paid it any heed. Failing to grasp the immediate discomfort in the room, Corden mocked his groaning audience, saying, “If you don’t like that joke you should probably leave.” The ensuing social media backlash was harder to ignore, with Rose McGowan calling him a “motherfucking piglet,” while Anthony Bourdain said he was an “asshole.”
James Corden reveals snickering Hollywood in all its grotesquerie . It's not about masturbation, asshole. It's about rape.— Anthony Bourdain (@Bourdain) October 15, 2017
On Sunday, Corden took to Twitter to complete the joke–backlash–apology cycle, saying he was only trying to shame Weinstein, not his victims. “I was not trying to make light of Harvey’s inexcusable behavior, but to shame him, the abuser, not his victims,” he wrote. “I am truly sorry for anyone offended, that was never my intention.”
To be clear, sexual assault is no laughing matter. I was not trying to make light of Harvey’s inexcusable behavior, (1/2)— James Corden (@JKCorden) October 15, 2017
but to shame him, the abuser, not his victims. I am truly sorry for anyone offended, that was never my intention. (2/2)— James Corden (@JKCorden) October 15, 2017
Whether or not offense was his intention, both incidents were serious errors of judgment, with the Weinstein gags revealing an utter inability to grapple with the larger socio-political issues at hand—an increasingly important skill for a late night comedian—and an utter lack of empathy—an increasingly important skill for a human being. “To be clear, sexual assault is no laughing matter,” wrote Corden, unable to grasp that this is exactly how he treated it: As a topical punchline, rather than a moral outrage.