Hasan Minhaj says controversial interview about his stand-up was 'needlessly misleading': 'I'm not a psycho'

Hasan Minhaj says controversial interview about his stand-up was 'needlessly misleading': 'I'm not a psycho'

Hasan Minhaj is clearing the air on his infamous New Yorker profile in, as he puts it, "the most Hasan Minhaj way possible."

The comedian has offered a detailed response — "a 20-minute deep dive with graphics and excessive hand motions" — to the controversial interview he participated in last month in which he admitted to embellishing stories in past stand-up acts to get to the "emotional truth."

In a video first shared with The Hollywood Reporter before he posted it to his Instagram, Minhaj said he is not a "psycho" or a "con artist" and apologized to fans who felt betrayed by his routines.

"With everything that's happening in the world, I'm aware even talking about this now feels so trivial," Minhaj began. "But being accused of 'faking racism' is not trivial. It's very serious, and it demands an explanation. I want to answer the biggest question that's probably on your mind: Is Hasan Minhaj secretly a psycho? Underneath all that pomp, is Hasan Minhaj just a con artist who uses fake racism and Islamophobia to advance his career? Because after reading that article, I would also think that."

The former Patriot Act host continued, "I just want to say to anyone who felt betrayed or hurt by my stand-up, I am sorry. I made artistic choices to express myself and drive home larger issues affecting me and my community, and I feel horrible that I let people down. The reason I feel horrible is because I'm not a psycho, but this New Yorker article definitely made me look like one. It was so needlessly misleading, not just about my stand-up, but also about me as a person. The truth is, racism, FBI surveillance, and the threats to my family happened. And I said this on the record."

Minhaj addressed a few of the anecdotes he embellished, including one about a white girl with allegedly racist parents who rejected him for the prom and another about harassment he witnessed from law enforcement surveilling the mosque he attended, among others.

Of the prom story, he said, his date's mother "really did say" the family didn't want their daughter in photos with a "brown boy."

"It was just a few days before prom," Minhaj explained. "I created the doorstep scene to drop the audience into the feeling of that moment, which I told the reporter." He then played audio from his conversation with the New Yorker reporter, which is infused throughout the video.

As for his stories about law enforcement and his daughter being taken to the hospital after she was exposed to what turned out to be fake anthrax powder mailed to his apartment, Minhaj apologized for blurring the lines between fact and fiction.

"I thought I had two different expectations built into my work: my work as a storytelling comedian and my work as a political comedian, where facts always come first," he said. "That is why the fact-checking on Patriot Act was extremely rigorous. The fact-checking in my congressional testimony, deeply rigorous… but in my work as a storytelling comedian, I assumed the lines between truth and fiction were allowed to be a bit more blurry."

Hasan Minhaj
Hasan Minhaj

Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images Hasan Minhaj

He continued, "I totally get why a journalist would be interested where that line sits. I just wish the reporter had been more interested in their own premise. Someone genuinely curious about truth in stand-up wouldn't just fact-check my specials. They would fact-check a bunch of specials. They would establish a control group, a baseline, to see how far outside the bounds I was in relation to others. They wouldn't just cherry-pick a few stories."

The clip concludes with a longer version of his comment about how "the emotional truth is first, the factual truth is secondary," in which he pushed to include more context.

"With [The Daily Show or Patriot Act], the truth comes first. Comedy sometimes comes second to make the infotainment, the sugar on the medicine. In this [stand-up], the emotional truth is first, the factual truth is secondary," Minhaj said in part in the recording. "The guy in this article is a proper f---ing psycho, but I now hope you feel like the real me is not."

The New Yorker responded to Minhaj's video in a statement issued to EW.

"Hasan Minhaj confirms in this video that he selectively presents information and embellishes to make a point: exactly what we reported," the statement reads. "Our piece, which includes Minhaj's perspective at length, was carefully reported and fact-checked. It is based on interviews with more than 20 people, including former Patriot Act and Daily Show staffers; members of Minhaj's security team; and people who have been the subject of his stand-up work, including the former F.B.I. informant "Brother Eric" and the woman at the center of his prom-rejection story. We stand by our story."

Watch Minhaj's video in full above.

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