Comedy Central was placed in the unusual -- and uncomfortable -- position on Tuesday of defending one of the most visible appointments in its history, the next host of "The Daily Show." For Trevor Noah, the only important outcome is that it did.
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, responding to a raging Internet controversy over several offensive tweets about Jews, Israel and women that the 31-year-old South African comic has posted over the last six years, the network said, "Like many comedians, Trevor Noah pushes boundaries; he is provocative and spares no one, himself included. To judge him or his comedy based on a handful of jokes is unfair. Trevor is a talented comedian with a bright future at Comedy Central."
Later Tuesday, Noah addressed the issue, tweeting in defense of himself: "To reduce my views to a handful of jokes that didn't land is not a true reflection of my character, nor my evolution as a comedian."
The National Anti-Defamation League issued a statement from its national director, Abraham H. Foxman, in which the organization wished him "success" in his upcoming anchor gig, but urged him and the network to "make a conscious effort to ensure that 'The Daily Show' remains funny and irreverent without trafficking in bigoted jokes at the expense of Jews, other minorities and women."
"We understand that comedians often use humor to poke fun at stereotypes and to push the envelope of political correctness," Foxman wrote, "and it seems that many if not most of the tweets sent by Trevor Noah over the years fall into those categories."
The controversy began late Monday -- just hours after Comedy Central appointed Noah -- when BuzzFeed discovered a handful of tweets that referred derisively to women and Israel. The story was subsequently picked up by The New York Times, at which point Noah began trending on social media, and not for the right reasons.
Noah has posted nearly 9,000 tweets, and a cursory glance at his recent timeline suggests most are used to promote ticket sales at concerts here and overseas. Tom Gara, the editor at BuzzFeed who first called attention to his tweets, posted this Tuesday: "The most depressing thing about Trevor Noah's Twitter timeline, other than how bad he is at Twitter, is how often he replies to @UberFacts," referring to the trivia website.
Noah, who joined "The Daily Show," in December, is scheduled to replace the 52-year-old Jon Stewart later this year.