The story of what one dad found in his son’s school is so shocking, late-night host Stephen Colbert said the political candidate who told it made it up.
But the story was real, and the father has fired back at the host, calling his political commentary “absolutely irresponsible.”
Colbert made the gaffe while taking aim at parents fed-up with explicit materials in the classroom, piling on Michigan Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon during Wednesday’s show.
Colbert insinuated that Dixon was the only one who cared about the “pornographic” material showing up in Michigan public school libraries on a regular basis, calling her “an election denying transphobic COVID-19 conspiracy theorist.”
“Dixon’s not the only one worried about this issue. So is this guy she totally made up,” Colbert said before showing a clip of Dixon speaking during the Oct. 25 gubernatorial debate.
In the clip, Dixon shares a story about a Michigan dad who came to her with concern regarding an explicit book in his child’s school library that described sexual acts in detail. The Dearborn, Michigan father attended the Dixon rally after feeling ignored by his own party’s leadership, city Democrats.
After the clip of Dixon’s story, Colbert sarcastically put up air quotes, saying, “Okay, fine. ‘That happened’.”
Khalil Othman, the Dearborn father, confirmed to the Detroit Free Press that he was in fact the father in the story.
“To claim that I’m not here, I don’t exist, I’m not human, that’s absolute ignorance,” Othman, 41, told the Free Press. “If this person did his due diligence and start researching or has his team do a little bit of research of who’s this person who attended Dixon’s rally, they will be able to find my name right away easy on social media. Just Google it.”
In a Facebook post, Othman described himself as having been “a loyal Democrat” from the time he immigrated from Yemen almost 20 years ago.
“Never once did I ever vote Republican,” he wrote. “However, the situation with the sexually explicit material in the schools was for me a bridge too far. When it comes to my kids and my family, I will not budge.”
Othman is one of many parents who protested explicit books before the Dearborn Board of Education.
Dixon says the denial regarding parents such as Othman is indicative of how the Democratic Party views parents.
“I told his story (during the debate), and Stephen Colbert picks it up. … And they make this whole skit about how this has never happened,” she wrote on Facebook. “That’s what he said, this story never happened. That’s where the Democrats are right now. You don’t exist, your stories are not important.”
When Colbert’s blunder became evident, the late-night host offered a sarcastic apology to Othman, though never by name, while slipping in an accusation that the father is anti-trans.
“It’s a sarcastic apology,” Othman told the Free Press. “Trying so hard to label this grassroots movement as a movement that is standing against any other community is totally unacceptable. And it’s just creating division and hate.”
In another interview, Othman said the Democrats’ response to concerned parents is what has caused him to vote Republican:
“These issues, the books, they are the biggest wake-up call for me and hundreds of parents.”