Hasan Minhaj came along just in time to catch the post-funny clapter comedy innovated by political scolds like Jon Stewart and John Oliver on the one hand and identity politics crybabies like Hannah Gadsby.
Minhaj’s semi-unique offering was being Muslim, but not Muslim, but an oppressed Muslim in Bush’s America. By the time he broke out, Bush was long gone and he was late to the party, but Netflix decided to give him a show anyway, Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, long after the joke was even relevant.
But Hasan Minhaj did have some great stories of being terrorized by Islamophobes which turned out to be as legit as your average tale of Islamophobia. The difference is that these were the center of Minhaj’s comedy routine, his career, celebrity and well his entire life story. Nobody at Netflix seemed to have problems with him lying about not only his life, but even faking tweets of death threats.
Now the lies have been exposed. They’re spectacularly shameless and an indictment not just of him, but of Netflix and an entire subculture and a media that let him get away with this for so long.
In Minhaj’s 2022 Netflix standup special, “The King’s Jester”—a biographical reflection on fame, vainglory, and Minhaj’s obsession with social-media clout—he relays a story about an F.B.I. informant who infiltrated his family’s Sacramento-area mosque, in 2002, when Minhaj was a junior in high school. As Minhaj tells it, Brother Eric, a muscle-bound white man who said he was a convert to Islam, gained the trust of the mosque community. He went to dinner at Minhaj’s house, and even offered to teach weight training to the community’s teen-age boys.
But Minhaj had Brother Eric pegged from the beginning. Eventually, Brother Eric tried to entice the boys into talking about jihad. Minhaj decided to mess with Brother Eric, telling him that he wanted to get his pilot’s license. Soon, the police were on the scene, slamming Minhaj against the hood of a car. Years later, while watching the news with his father, Minhaj saw a story about Craig Monteilh, who assumed the cover of a personal trainer when he became an F.B.I. informant in Muslim communities in Southern California. “Well, well, well, Papa, look who it is,” Minhaj recalls telling his father. “It’s our good friend Brother Eric.”
Onstage, a large screen behind Minhaj flashes news footage from an Al Jazeera English report on Monteilh. Minhaj’s teen-age hunch, it seems, was proved right.
This is a larger myth propounded by Islamists, which is that all Muslim terror plotters in America have just been ‘entrapped’ by FBI agents.
Anyway, to no surprise, this story wasn’t true.
Prior to my meeting with Minhaj, Monteilh, a.k.a. “Brother Eric,” had told me that Minhaj’s story is a fabrication. “I have no idea why he would do that,” Monteilh said. Monteilh was in prison in 2002, and didn’t begin to work for the F.B.I. on counterterrorism measures until 2006. Details of his undercover actions were catalogued in a legal case that has made its way to the Supreme Court. Monteilh said that he’d worked only in Southern California, not the Sacramento area.
According to Minhaj, he made up this whole “police busting me because I claimed to be a pilot” thing based on a game of basketball.
The Brother Eric story, Minhaj said, was based on a hard foul he received during a game of pickup basketball in his youth. Minhaj and other teen-age Muslims played pickup games with middle-aged men whom the boys suspected were officers. One made a show of pushing Minhaj to the ground. Minhaj insisted that, though both stories were made up, they were based on “emotional truth.”
The “emotional truth” behind the FBI sending an infiltrator into his mosque who pretended to be into terrorism is that Minhaj was playing a game with some guy who pretended to push him.
“Emotional truth” is apparently slang for “making up politically convenient lies based on nothing”.
There’s a certain inevitable irony to a comedian being tipped to host The Daily Show using ‘Truthiness’ as his only defense.
But wait. Then there was the time some Islamophobe sent him anthrax and it got on his daughter.
The big screen displays threatening tweets that were sent to Minhaj. Most disturbing, he tells the story of a letter sent to his home which was filled with white powder. The contents accidentally spilled onto his young daughter. The child was rushed to the hospital…
Later that night, his wife, in a fury, told him that she was pregnant with their second child. “ ‘You get to say whatever you want onstage, and we have to live with the consequences,’ ” Minhaj recalls her saying. “ ‘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.’ ”
The bigger issue in this relationship may be that Minhaj is a compulsive liar.
The New York Police Department, which investigates incidents of possible Bacillus anthracis, has no record of an incident like the one Minhaj describes, nor do area hospitals. Front-desk and mailroom employees at Minhaj’s former residence don’t remember such an incident, nor do “Patriot Act” employees involved with the show’s security or Minhaj’s security guard from the time.
During our conversation, Minhaj admitted that his daughter had never been exposed to a white powder, and that she hadn’t been hospitalized. He had opened up a letter delivered to his apartment, he said, and it had contained some sort of powder. Minhaj said that he had made a joke to his wife, saying, “Holy shit. What if this was anthrax?”
And he never did anything about it? Sounds plausible. But remember those “threatening tweets”.
Minhaj also acknowledged to me that the threatening tweets displayed on the large screen during “The King’s Jester” were not authentic but, rather, heightened for comedic effect.
That means someone, likely Netflix employees, faked them which means that show personnel would have been aware of the fraud.
Minhaj tries to borrow Stewart’s “clown nose on/clown nose off” routine, but as repugnant as the Daily Show host was, he didn’t make a habit of inventing things that didn’t happen to him to score political points. Minhaj claims he was just playing characters, but he kept up the charade in interviews.
Minhaj has discussed the white-powder incident in interviews, without taking the opportunity to clarify that the events he describes onstage, including his daughter’s hospitalization, didn’t happen as told. “I remember in that moment going, oh shit, sometimes the envelope pushes back,” he told the Daily Beast, in 2022
This isn’t a character, this is a con.
It turns out that Minhaj lies a lot. About real events and real people.
He was invited to the Time 100 Gala, where he says that he watched Jared Kushner enter the room and boorishly sit in a seat that had been ceremonially kept empty for an imprisoned Saudi activist. Minhaj admonished Donald Trump’s son-in-law for his inaction on human rights. Minhaj’s fame rose, threats proliferated, and eventually we hear about the anthrax episode…
And, although Minhaj did very publicly criticize Kushner at the Time 100 Gala for the Trump Administration’s feeble response to Saudi human-rights violations, there was no ceremonial seat set aside for an activist, let alone one that Kushner sat in. Minhaj said that this was another fabrication that served to drive home the “emotional truth” of the moment.
Emotional truth is just a touchy-feely version of Rather’s fake but accurate. Minhaj doesn’t really mean emotional truths, he means political and ideological truths.
His “day-to-day life is not very interesting or compelling,” Minhaj said. “My comedy storytelling certainly has to be.”
This is Munchausen nonsense tethered to ideology. My life isn’t making my points for me, so I have to make stuff up.
This story however really brings home what a miserable human being, Hasan Minhaj is.
The central story of his first Netflix special, “Homecoming King,” which was released in 2017, is about his crush on a friend, a white girl with whom he shared a stolen kiss and who accepted his invitation to prom but later reneged in a humiliating fashion; Minhaj showed up on her doorstep the night of the dance, only to see another boy putting a corsage on her wrist. Onstage, Minhaj says that his friend’s parents didn’t want their daughter to take pictures with a brown boy, because they were concerned about what their relatives might think. “I’d eaten off their plates,” Minhaj says. “I’d kissed their daughter. I didn’t know that people could be bigoted even as they were smiling at you.”
In reality, the “bigoted” daughter ends up engaged to an Indian man.
Hasan Minhaj however decides to doxx her and ruin her life while depicting her as a bigot who hates ‘brown’ people.
But the woman disputed certain facts. She told me that she’d turned down Minhaj, who was then a close friend, in person, days before the dance. Minhaj acknowledged that this was correct, but he said that the two of them had long carried different understandings of her rejection. As a “brown kid in Davis, California,” he said, he’d been conditioned to put his head down and “just take it, and I did.” The “emotional truth” of the story he told onstage was resonant and justified the fabrication of details.
In short, Minhaj is lying. As usual. But the lies are justified because he’s a victim. Not in this case or in any actual case, but in some broader emotional sense.
Who’s the actual victim here? As usual, it’s not Minhaj, who’s just a victim in his own mind, but the actual people whose lives he destroys with false accusations of Islamophobia.
The woman also said that she and her family had faced online threats and doxing for years because Minhaj had insufficiently disguised her identity, including the fact that she was engaged to an Indian American man. A source with knowledge of the production said that, during the show’s Off Broadway run, Minhaj had used a real picture of the woman and her partner, with their faces blurred, projected behind him as he told the story…
Later, she said, when she confronted Minhaj about the online threats brought on by the Netflix special—“I spent years trying to get threads taken down,” she told me—Minhaj shrugged off her concerns.
Of course, he did.
Minhaj was piggybacking on Obama’s own fake memoir claims about an ex, but at least Obama hid her identity, whereas Minhaj seemed delighted to destroy her life.
The question is whether the Left is ready to formally embrace ‘truthiness’.
When it came to his stage shows, he told me, “the emotional truth is first. The factual truth is secondary.”
If Minhaj gets The Daily Show, he can change the title to The Truthy Show.