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Hasan Minhaj confesses he fabricated stories of racial discrimination after New Yorker exposes his lies, defends saying ‘emotional truth more important than fact’

The news magazine, through extensive research and first-hand experience with the involved stakeholders, added that the majority of these stories never actually happened to him, including the infamous 'Anthrax scare' story. 

On Friday (15 September), the New Yorker published an extensive report titled Hasan Minhaj’s “Emotional Truths”, revealing how Indian-origin stand-up comic Hasan Minhaj had made up stories of racial harassment.

It highlighted that Hasan Minhaj had, on multiple occasions, recounted harrowing experiences he claimed to have faced as an Asian/Muslim American. The news magazine, through extensive research and first-hand experience with the involved stakeholders, added that the majority of these stories never actually happened to him, including the infamous ‘Anthrax scare’ story. 

In fact, the magazine also received validation for most of the claims it found to be untrue directly from Minhaj himself. The comedian himself admitted to fabricating stand-up stories of racial discrimination to embellish his stories and deliver “punch lines”. 

The author confronts Hasan Minhaj regarding his “real-life” experiences shared onstage

The New Yorker report described Minhaj’s approach to comedy stating that he leans heavily on his “own experience” as an Asian/Muslim American and sharing harrowing stories of “law enforcement entrapment” and personal threats. 

The report added that for many of his fans, Minhaj has become an avatar for the power of representation in entertainment. The magazine added that when it tried to confirm some of the stories that comedian Hasan Minhaj had told onstage they were unable to confirm a majority of these stories and after weeks of efforts, the author Malone got a chance to personally seek responses from Minhaj about these stories.

Interestingly, in his interaction with the author of the report Clare Malone, for the first time, Minhaj acknowledged that many of the anecdotes he had shared in his Netflix specials, “The King’s Jester” and other shows, were indeed untrue.

He, however, stood by his work stating, “Every story in my style is built around a seed of truth. My comedy Arnold Palmer is 70% emotional truth—this happened—and then 30% hyperbole, exaggeration, fiction.”

In a comprehensive dig into Minhaj’s comic work, the news report specifically highlights three stories – the first story pertains to a so-called trap set up by law enforcement agencies to frame Muslim youths in cases of Jihad. 

In his 2022 Netflix standup special, “The King’s Jester”, he narrated a story of an F.B.I. informant who according to him infiltrated his family’s Sacramento-area mosque, in 2002, when he was a junior in high school. Narrating the story, Minhaj claimed that a well-built white man, who asserted that he had converted to Islam, gained the trust of the mosque community. He added that the ‘white man’ whom he referred to as Brother Eric, also gave weight training to the community’s teenage boys.

The comedian argued that Eric wanted to frame the teenage Muslim boys by drawing them into conversations on Jihad and then implicating them. However, he was suspicious of Eric’s identity from the beginning and tried to mess with Brother Eric. 

He further narrated that this didn’t go well and soon after his decision, police arrived on the scene and they slammed Minhaj against the hood of a car.

On the show, Minhaj added that many years later, when he was watching TV with his father, he saw a story about Craig Monteilh. Craig had become an F.B.I. informant in Muslim communities in Southern California by assuming the cover of a personal trainer and he recalled that Craig was none other than Brother Eric who wanted to implicate innocent Muslim teenagers of Minhaj’s locality.  

During his narration, a large screen behind Minhaj flashed news footage from an Al Jazeera English report on Craig indicating that Minhaj’s hunch was proved right. 

After narrating his ‘own real-life story,’ which was later found to be untrue, about how the administration was allegedly trying to frame innocent Muslim teenagers, Minhaj transitions to the case of Hamid Hayat, a resident of the Sacramento area. He adds that Hayat spent 36 years in prison based on a confession that his attorney’s claim was coerced.

Minhaj adds that he thinks about Hamid all the time. 

However, the New Yorker interacted with Craig Monteilh, or the so-called ‘Brother Eric’ in Minhaj’s autobiographical anecdotal story. During an interview with the author of the New Yorker report, Clare Malone, Craig informed her that Minhaj’s story is a fabrication. Craig said, “I have no idea why he would do that.” 

The report also stated that Monteilh was in prison in 2002 and did not begin working for the F.B.I. on counterterrorism measures until 2006. Details of his undercover actions were documented in a legal case that eventually reached the Supreme Court. Monteilh clarified that his work was limited to Southern California and did not include the Sacramento area.

Speaking on the Brother Eric story, Minhaj told Clare Malone that it was based on a hard foul that he received during a game of pickup basketball in his youth. 

Apparently, he and other teenage Muslims played pickup games with middle-aged men whom they suspected were officers. Out of them, one made a show of pushing Minhaj to the ground. Admitting that both stories were made up, Minhaj insisted that they were based on “emotional truth.” 

According to him, the broader points he was trying to make justified concocting stories in which to deliver them, and said, “The punch line is worth the fictionalized premise.” 

The Anthrax scare episode and the fiasco regarding his interaction with the Saudi delegate around the time of Jamal Khashoggi’s death

Later in his Netflix Special show, ‘The King’s Jester’, Minhaj spoke about the consequences he had to face because of some segments he ran on his other show, “Patriot Act” in connection with the killing of Jamal Khashoggi and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalism. 

In the backdrop of his narration, the big screen displayed threatening messages that were sent to Minhaj. He then goes on to narrate the story of the scariest threat and a letter sent to his home which was filled with “white powder”. 

He further narrated that the contents accidentally spilled onto his young daughter and the child had to be rushed to the hospital. Though it was found out not to be anthrax, it insinuated that Minhaj’s comic actions have real-life consequences. 

Later that night, he learned from his infuriated wife that she was pregnant with their second child. Minhaj recalled her saying, “You get to say whatever you want onstage, and we have to live with the consequences. I don’t give a shit that Time magazine thinks you’re an “influencer.” If you ever put my kids in danger again, I will leave you in a second.”

However, New Yorker’s research found that neither the New York Police Department, responsible for investigating possible Bacillus anthracis incidents (the bacteria that causes Anthrax), nor local hospitals have any record of an incident matching Minhaj’s description. 

Furthermore, both front-desk and mailroom staff at Minhaj’s previous residence have no recollection of such an incident, and neither do the security personnel from the ‘Patriot Act’ show nor Minhaj’s security guard from that period.

Interestingly, during his interaction with the author, Clare Malone, Minhaj admitted that his daughter had never been exposed to a “white powder” and that she hadn’t been hospitalised. 

During the interaction, Minhaj stated that he had opened up a letter delivered to his apartment and it had contained some sort of powder. To which, Minhaj jokingly said to his wife, “Holy shit. What if this was anthrax?” 

Though there were security concerns at the time and Netflix had hired protection for Minhaj, he claimed that he’d never told anyone on the show about this letter. 

However, he has used this so-called white powder incident to harp victimhood on multiple occasions. In many interviews, he discussed the white powder incident without clarifying that the events he describes onstage, including his daughter’s hospitalisation, didn’t happen as he described.

When asked if he wasn’t manipulating the audience, Minhaj said, “No, I don’t think I’m manipulating. I think they are coming for the emotional roller-coaster ride.” He brazened it out saying, “To the people that are, like, ‘Yo, that is way too crazy to happen,’ I don’t care because yes, f–k yes—that’s the point.” 

On the issue of whether his portrayal of a traumatic experience involving his child or law enforcement entrapment was distasteful? Minhaj said, “It’s grounded in truth.”

When Malone asserted, “But it didn’t happen to you,” he replied, “I think what I’m ultimately trying to do is highlight all of those stories. Building to what I think is a pointed argument” as opposed to a “pointless riff” of jokes.

Similarly, he also concocted a story revolving around his meeting with Saudi delegates. He fabricated the timeline of actual events to insinuate that hours before the news of Jamal Khashoggi’s death aired, he had met with Saudi delegates despite reservations from his wife and others. 

In one podcast – on John Heilemann’s podcast earlier this year, Minhaj described his work as “the dynamic range that theatre and storytelling and comedy allow you to explore.”

The New Yorker report further goes on to expose that the comedian often excluded fact-checking staff and researchers to suit his “emotional truth”. 

According to former employees and researchers of the show “Patriot Act” which Minhaj hosts, they felt that Minhaj was dismissive of the fact-checking process. A female researcher said, “[Minhaj] just assembled people around him to make him appear different and much smarter and more thoughtful.”

They noted that Minhaj considered fact-checking a hindrance in the creative flow during a final rewrite, and would often ask a pair of female researchers to leave the writers’ room.

However, Minhaj denied these allegations claiming that each line and word was fact-checked at least 8-10 times. 

In the exhaustive list of lies, Minhaj also tweaked actual events and fabricated things to make racial discrimination claims. The New Yorker in its painstaking research established that he lied about his personal story involving a white girl and her family in which he claimed that the family discriminated against him because of his brown skin.  

The report highlights Minhaj’s extensive lies and his habitual offence of twisting facts/timelines and fabricating stories to present a perverted form of oppression stories in the guise of his real-life experiences. 

To sum it up, the report added that when it came to his stage shows, Minhaj told Clare Malone, “the emotional truth is first. The factual truth is secondary.”

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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