Jake Tapper May Have Saved Jimmy Kimmel’s Career

Before last month’s White House Correspondent’s Dinner Jimmy Kimmel apparently ran a few of his jokes by regular attendees, one of them smartly advised him to skip a joke that likely would have caused some serious embarrassment:

Jimmy Kimmel delivered a barrage of edgy jokes at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner (WHCD) late last month in Washington. But after consulting with ABC News senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper, Kimmel decided several were too over-the-top to make the cut.

“I had some jokes about Rick Santorum,” Kimmel told Howard Stern in an interview on Sirius radio. “I said something like—well, I didn’t say it, but, ‘Newt Gingrich’s campaign is so dead Mitt Romney wants to baptize it and Rick Santorum wants to put it in a jar and show it to his kids.’ People went, ‘Uh-oh.’ I ran it by people who go to this thing.” (The joke made reference to the Santorums’ decision to bring their dead baby son home following a miscarriage.)

“Who do you run it by?” Stern asked, according to the transcript published on Romenesko.com.

“There’s a guy named Jake Tapper at ABC News,” Kimmel said. “I ran jokes by him. He’s been there a lot of times,” the comedian said, referring to the annual event.

“I tried to help Jimmy with the temperature of the room,” Tapper wrote in an email to Yahoo News. “And yes, I thought that joke would cause the room to turn against him, perhaps even causing a stampede, with the Hilton getting in on the tar and feather concession. Seeking to spare him a Rich Little-like reception, I offered my suggestions—such as they are—as to which jokes might bomb.”

Perhaps “saved Kimmel’s career” is a bit strong, but I don’t think it’s unfair to say that a joke like that would’ve caused a pretty loud uproar on the right, no to mention the fact that it’s was kind of tasteless.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. PJ says:

    All those jokes Colbert made in 2006 really killed his career.
    All those jokes that the journalists at the dinner or the right didn’t like.

  2. Hey Norm says:

    “…not to mention the fact that it’s was kind of tasteless…”

    But baptising dead people and bringing dead babies home after a mis-carriage aren’t?
    We should be disgusted by the joke, but not the aberrant behavior?

    Actually Romney spent last night at a $50,000 a plate fundraiser put on by the manufacturer of a Morning After Birth Control Pill. These are the pills Romney has called

    “…abortive pills…”

    And yes…that’s the same Romney who would restrict access to birth control, including emergency contraception, and undermine access to family planning.
    The same Romney that said:

    “…Planned Parenthood, we’re going to get rid of that…”

    If you really want to get your panties in a twist over something disgusting…how about the rank hypocrisy of the Republican Party.

  3. @Hey Norm:

    We should be disgusted by the joke, but not the aberrant behavior?

    Grief makes people do strange things; my problem with Rick Santorum is not with how he reacted to his wife’s miscarriage.

  4. Ian says:

    I think he could have told the Romney portion of the joke, and lived to tell about it. But yeah, that Santorum bit deserves a bit more …..decorum? I do think what Santorum did was beyond creepy, but not in a funny way. But to say that talking about it (again, in a more sober fashion) is not out of line. The Santorums have brought that story up in multiple venues when it stood to enhance their culture war bona fides. Plus, Momma Santorum wrote a book about it. If you don’t want the personal to be political, don’t make the personal political. Given that, there’s nothing wrong with liberals pointing out that what happened was beyond creepy.

  5. Franklin says:

    @Hey Norm: Oh, jeez, Norm, I thought we’ve been over this. People should be allowed significant leeway in how they deal with grief. You think his way is aberrant, he thinks gays are aberrant, everybody’s got a useless opinion on how other people go through life. One could argue that burying or burning dead people is silly as well, it’s nothing but a mass of molecules, right? Personally I just don’t see anything wrong with what he did. It’s unusual but it didn’t hurt anyone. Perhaps his family had a meaningful conversation about faith and death.

    On the other hand, I don’t see anything wrong with making a joke out of it. But preferably a private joke, not one at that big publicized dinner.

  6. PJ says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Grief makes people do strange things; my problem with Rick Santorum is not with how he reacted to his wife’s miscarriage.


    If Santorum got the idea to force everyone who miscarriages to do what he did, then I’d have an issue with it. But If this is how the family deals with the grief, then I don’t have an issue with it.

    Baptizing dead people on the other hand…

  7. Hey Norm says:

    Sorry if I wasn’t clear.
    Santorum and Romney are free to practice whatever aberrant rituals they wish…I could care less what supestitions they believe or guide their lives by…as long as they don’t try to impose their freakishness on me.
    But if you make your superstitions and bizarre behavior public…then it’s wide open for ridicule.
    And instead of roasting a comedian we should be focusing on the hypocritical freaks themselves.

  8. Adam says:

    ” no to mention the fact that it’s was kind of tasteless.”

    Well some might say the entire political class is tasteless.

  9. André Kenji de Sousa says:

    I confess that I laughed when I read this joke.