A Russian late-night television sketch featuring a racist impersonation of former U.S. President Barack Obama has sparked controversy after airing on a Kremlin-funded network over the weekend.
During his Saturday evening political satire show, Mezhdunarodnaya Pilorama (“International Saw-Panorama”), host Tigran Keosayan conducts an interview with the fake former president.
“We now go live to the dark side of America’s history, Barack Obama,” Keosayan says as an actress in blackface wearing a red bandana, gold chains and an oversized T-shirt appears on the other side of the split screen.
The fake Obama yells “Black Lives Matter” multiple times before Keosavan cuts her off says, “there’s no racism in Russia.”
Не могу пройти мимо очередного шедевра Боброедов. Автор и сценарист программы – Маргарита Симоньян. Вместе с мужем ведущим они получают за каждый выпуск в районе 5 млн рублей. И, напоминаю, свою дочь Кеосаян отправил учиться в Нью-Йорк pic.twitter.com/dd9nTFAr5j— Alexey Navalny (@navalny) November 29, 2020
The interview then descends into insinuations that Obama’s family was illiterate, that the ex-president is driven by greed and that he should pursue a rap career.
Referring to Obama’s recently released book, A Promise Land, Keosayan asks the fake Obama, “Do you consider this book your achievement?”
The actress wearing blackface responds saying, “none of my relatives that came before me could write.” Asked to name the most important part of his memoirs, the Obama impersonator shouts “royalties.”
“You should have been a rap musician,” Keosayan tells the fake Obama after the actress performs a Donald Trump-themed rhyme when asked to cite a passage from his memoirs.
Kremlin critic and anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny lashed out at the skit, writing on Twitter that the husband-and-wife pair earn an estimated $65,600 per episode and that they sent their daughter to study in New York.
Russian Twitter users have also criticized the clip, calling it “garbage,” criticizing the use of blackface on a state-run channel and pointing to the real-life Obama’s eloquence.