Trevor Noah says he's in "a little bit of trouble with the French government." Well...kind of.
After cracking some jokes about France's 2018 World Cup win, the host of The Daily Show was on receiving end of criticism from the French ambassador to the United States Gérard Araud who was not here for Noah's comments about the African heritage of many of the French team players.
"I'm so excited! Africa won the World Cup!" Noah joked during Monday's show, following the team's Sunday victory. "I get it, they have to say it's the French team, but look at those guys," he said, showing a photo of the national team.
Apparently this was all too much for Araud, who wrote a letter to the The Daily Show critiquing Noah's commentary. The show posted footage of Noah reading the letter to the audience between takes of Wednesday's episode.
Part of the letter reads: "As many of the players have stated themselves, their parents may have come from another country, but the great majority of them — all but two out of 23 — were born in France."
"'The rich and various backgrounds of these players is a reflection of France's diversity,'" Noah read from the letter. He shut down that point, noting that the "diversity" of the squad may be "more of a reflection of France's colonialism" than anything else.
The letter went on: "Unlike the United States of America, France does not refer to its citizens based on their race, religion or origin. To us, there is no hyphenated identity. Roots are an individual reality. By calling them an African team, it seems you are denying their Frenchness."
Noah acknowledged that he understood the point the ambassador was attempting to make, but offered a different point of view as an African citizen.
"Black people all over the world were celebrating the African-ness of the French players," Noah explained. "Not in a negative way, but rather in a positive way, going 'look at these Africans who can become French.' It's a celebration of that achievement." He added that the players can be both French and African — not simply one or the other.
"Why is that duality only afforded to a select group of people?" he asked. "Why can they not be African? What they're arguing here is in order to be French, you have to erase everything that is African?"
When I say they're African, I’m not saying it as a way to exclude them from their Frenchness. I’m saying it to include them in my Africanness. https://t.co/8RW4Rvt7m6
— Trevor Noah (@Trevornoah) July 19, 2018
Noah also commented on double standards in the French government's language regarding players versus African migrants, and referenced to the country's own immigration policies.
"When they are unemployed, when they may commit a crime, or when they're considered unsavory, it's the African immigrants," Noah said. "When their children go on to provide a World Cup victory for France, we should only refer to them as France."
According to Araud, the short-lived feud is officially over — but his response shared to Twitter on Thursday morning implied that he didn't quite agree with the argument Noah brought forward.
End of the argument with @Trevornoah He didn’t refer to a double identity. He said »they are African. They couldn’t get this suntan in the south of France ». i.e They can’t be French because they are black. The argument of the white supremacist.
— Gérard Araud (@GerardAraud) July 19, 2018
"He didn’t refer to a double identity," Araud tweeted, referencing Noah's initial remarks. "He said »they are African. They couldn’t get this suntan in the south of France ». i.e They can’t be French because they are black. The argument of the white supremacist."
Read Araud's full letter below, and Noah's response in the video above.
The Ambassador of France to the US @GerardAraud answers to @Trevornoah @TheDailyShow « By calling them an African team, it seems you are denying their Frenchness »
21 of the 23 players were born in France, grew up in France and feel French. It was not a debate in France #WorldCup pic.twitter.com/V4douqURQX
— Sonia Dridi (@Sonia_Dridi) July 18, 2018