Flashback: Comedy Central, HuffPo Mocked Capture of Otto Warmbier


You should never make fun of a tragedy. It’ll come back to bite you. 

Tragic news broke Monday evening when the family of Otto Warmbier, the American college student taken by North Korea and returned in a coma, put out a statement that their son passed had away earlier that afternoon. “Unfortunately, the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today,” the statement said. When Otto was first detained by the Communist regime, multiple outlets mocked his arrest and impending doom.

At the time, Comedy Central’s now defunct program, The Nightly Show relentlessly ridiculed Warmbier as the audience laughed. “A story coming straight out of Pyongyang. Not to be confused with “Straight Outta Pyongyang,” the hit film about the rise and fall of NKWA, North Koreans with Attitude,” joked host Larry Wilmore at the start of the show. “Tonight’s story is about the North Korean government, which recently captured one of America’s most annoying exports, a frat bro.”


Wilmore went so low as to mock the terrified man’s name because it’s pronounced warm-beer, rhetorically asking:

Otto Frederick Warmbier? Did this kid get arrested in North Korea and then just give the cop his fake I.D.? ‘Yes, sir, we’ve got American student Otto Warmbier here. His birthday is 4-20, and he lives on 69 Weed Avenue.’

He even claimed it was “one of the top three fakest-sounding names I’ve ever heard.

After noting that Warmbier’s crime was that of taking a propaganda poster, Wilmore lectured the captive. “Okay. Listen up, frat boy, this isn’t like the time you stole Sig Ep’s goat. This is North Korea. They’re not known for their love of pranks. Look, I get the desire to steal things from hotel rooms,” he chided.

At the show trial, Warmbier gave his testimony under clear direst and was openly crying to be released so he could be with his family. This too was derided by the failed Comedy Central host, who claimed that Warmbier thought he had “frat bro privilege:”

It’s all the way at the bottom so it’s easy to miss, but it says: “Frat bro privilege not valid in totalitarian dystopias.” Listen, Otto Von Crybaby, if you’re so anxious to go to a country with an unpredictable megalomaniac in charge, just wait a year and you’ll live in one! It’s coming, you guys! You know that shit is coming! Make America Great!

This assertion of privilege was one shared by the Huffington Post, who published an article at the time with the headline: “North Korea Proves Your White Male Privilege Is Not Universal.” “The shield his cis white male identity provides here in America is not teflon [sic] abroad,” writer La Sha callously declared.

Privilege is a hell of a drug,” Sha stated as she proceeded to equate Warmbier to the mass shooters of Aurora, Colorado and Charleston, North Carolina. “When you can watch a white man who entered a theater and killed a dozen people come out unscathed, you start to believe you’re invincible,” she said of the captive.

She even praised the coming abuse Warmbier would face, saying:

The high of privilege told him that North Korea’s history of making examples out of American citizens who dare challenge their rigid legal system in any way was no match for his alabaster American privilege.

I wonder where they were when their son was planning a trip to the DPRK,” shifting her condemnation to his grieving family. “Did they not teach him the importance of obeying authority?

The targeting of Warmbier as just a privileged “frat boy” and “white man” was despicable and completely uncalled for. And it says a lot about these outlets that they permitted it to be created under their banners.