SiriusXM radio host Jeff Lewis apologized for several racially insensitive comments he and his guests had directed toward Asian people last week.
The problematic remarks came during Tuesday and Wednesday’s episodes of “Jeff Lewis Live,” in which the former “Flipping Out” star talked about the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) with fellow interior designer Megan Weaver, actor Doug Budin, sister-in-law Carrie Lewis, actress Monika Casey and “Saturday Night Live” alum Cheri Oteri.
During their conversations, Lewis and his guests made “jokes” about protecting themselves against the deadly pathogen. Their methods included isolating Asian American employees at SiriusXM, rejecting calls from Asian listeners, avoiding restaurants like Panda Express and staying away from areas with Asian communities.
“There used to be three Asian American people working here, but Megan has locked them in the greenroom because she’s so concerned,” Lewis, 49, joked on Tuesday. “She is so concerned she quarantined them.”
Weaver went along, claiming she was “terrified,” vowing to boycott Panda Express “until this is all over.” Budin then chimed in.
“Megan was nervous like, ‘What if an Asian person calls into the show? We shouldn’t even take the call,” the actor said.
Lewis, who called the situation “too dangerous,” went on to joke that he had canceled his radio show’s events in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.
“You can’t be too careful,” said Weaver, adding concern of exposure after a Chinese foot massage. “He was very sick. He was really sick!”
The comments got worse on Wednesday’s show. This time, Lewis asked to “quarantine all Asian SiriusXM employees.”
“This would include Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Burmese, Filipino, Indonesian, etc.,” the radio host said. “I’m sure there’s more.
“That’s all we could think of. We’ll see how that goes.”
Lewis also advised against areas frequented by Asian people. He named Los Angeles’ Chinatown and TCL Chinese Theatre as areas to avoid.
Steering further from the topic, Lewis went on to share about his experiences with Asians while studying at the University of Southern California, claiming that “Asians were the biggest cheaters of all.”
“Now, I cheat too. I cheated, most of my friends cheated, but I’m just telling you what happened,” he said. “In those classes, those Asians were the biggest cheaters. And I think cause they got the most pressure from their parents.”
He continued, “My dad didn’t give a sh*t. I didn’t have a lot of pressure. But those kids, I blame the parents. Those kids were under so much pressure.”
“I was an English major, so there were no Asians in my class,” Carrie replied. Lewis then declared, “It’s racist Wednesday, here at ‘Jeff Lewis Live.’”
Lewis concluded his rant blaming Chinese people for the spread of the virus, saying that they “eat all kinds of sh*t over there.”
“They’re saying the coronavirus, it’s a bat virus that then transmitted to snakes because snakes eat bats,” he said. “The Chinese eat snakes, they eat all kinds of sh*t over there. That’s probably why we’re in this trouble. Allegedly. They eat bats . . . mice. And then they wonder why they’re sick!”
Bats have not been confirmed
as the source of the virus, which has so far killed a total of 362 people — 361 of whom in China and one in the Philippines — according to CNN
On Thursday, Lewis backpedaled on the remarks he and his guests had made.
“We love our Asian listeners and we would never want them to feel excluded,” Lewis said, according to People. “We also never meant to spread hate or breed racism with our comments.”
He continued, “Apparently, I did incense a few people. I actually feel bad about it. I was joking around and it went a little too far. I apologize for being such an a**. I want people to have fun when they listen to this show. So I just wanted to apologize. I’m very sorry for crossing the line.”
Lewis pointed out that he personally wanted to apologize — not because SiriusXM made him.
“I personally, truly, was kidding — was joking. Being sarcastic,” he added.
Photos of Lewis with his guests have since been flooded with criticism on Instagram.
“Apology NOT accepted. Racist a** comments, trying to pass them off as ‘jokes.’ No,” one user commented.
A daily dose of Asian America's essential stories, in under 5 minutes.
Get our collection of Asian America's most essential stories to your inbox daily for free.
Unsure? Check out our Newsletter Archive.