Don’t mess with the Motor City. Jimmy Kimmel dissed Detroit, and ABC responded by yanking his late-night show on its affiliates nationwide. Kimmel scored his verbal foul during halftime of Wednesday’s game between the Detroit Pistons and the Los Angeles Lakers, the second in the NBA championship series. On ABC’s telecast of the game, Kimmel told sportscaster Mike Tirico he was glad the Lakers were ahead because ”they’re gonna burn the city of Detroit down if the Pistons win, and it’s not worth it.” Michigan native Tirico took offense at Kimmel’s apparent reference to the violence that followed the Detroit Tigers’ World Series victory in 1984. So did execs at Detroit ABC affiliate WXYZ, who pulled Kimmel’s Wednesday-night show, leading the network to follow suit on its other stations, airing a rerun instead. ”We made the decision that we felt was in the best interest of the show,” ABC said in a statement.
Kimmel apologized, sort of, saying, ”What I said about Pistons fans during halftime was a joke, nothing more. If I offended anyone, I’m sorry.” Noting that fires and riots followed the Lakers’ 2000 NBC championship victory, Kimmel added, ”Clearly, over the past 10 years, we in L.A. have taken a commanding lead in post-game riots. If the Lakers win, I plan to overturn my own car.”
WXYZ execs found Kimmel’s mea culpa insincere. ”He tried to turn it into another bad joke,” WXYZ news director Andrea Parquet-Taylor told the Associated Press. Kimmel issued a second apology, saying, ”When you’re 2,000 miles away from a city you’ve never lived in, it’s hard to understand the sadness people feel from something that happened in their town — even if it happened many years ago. It was never my intention to cause anyone pain. I was trying to make a joke and I’m sorry it resulted in anything other than laughter.” This apology was deemed contrite enough for ABC to restore Kimmel’s show to the schedule on Thursday. Still, we bet not too many Detroit viewers tuned in.