Jessica Moore, a comedian who also goes by the name Jess Hilarious, apologized Monday following backlash over a series of since-deleted videos she posted to Instagram in which she claimed to feel “threatened” by a group of Sikh men who were on the same plane as she was.
“I’m sorry to the Sikhs. I’m sorry to the Muslims. I’m sorry to every person on the plane,” she wrote in a video posted to her Instagram account. “I am ignorant to a lot of shit. … I will do better.”
It all started on Sunday when Moore, who stars on the Fox sitcom “Rel,” posted a video showing what appears to be a man wearing a turban ahead of her in line as she waits to board a plane.
Moore, who has over 4 million Instagram followers, can be heard gasping loudly in the video as she spots the passenger. “Where are you going?” she asks in a quiet and rhetorical question.
After Instagram users called her out for racially profiling what turned out to be a group of passengers, she posted another video defending her behavior.
“If I’m scared, I’m scared,” she said. “Fuck y’all. Fuck how y’all feel. Y’all mad at me because I don’t side with every other black person, ’cause I don’t side with every other race. Fuck y’all. I feel how I feel. I felt threatened and that was it.”
Moore then said that the plane had been evacuated with no explanation, implying that perhaps the turban-wearing passengers played a role in that.
— s a r a (@sara_zfa) March 17, 2019
The 27-year-old comedian stood by her comments in yet another video that she posted after reboarding the plane. She claimed that the passengers she’d profiled were no longer on the flight.
“How ironic is it that we boarded the same plane and I don’t see those people?” Moore said. “Eat my ass. … My news be real.”
It’s unclear why, in fact, the plane was evacuated. Moore did not say what airline she was flying or what airport she was in.
People berated Moore for her comments, with one Twitter user describing them as “PEAK IGNORANCE” and others calling on Fox to fire her.
Fox declined to comment for this story.
Days after 50 Muslim people were murdered because of their religion in a terror attack, @jess_hilarious had 4 Sikh people kicked off a flight because she was “scared.” I am a Sikh. We must denounce this bigotry & racism. We can do better. pic.twitter.com/3jwFSG3eh1
— Simar (@sahluwal) March 17, 2019
You know what I find sad. As black ppl we know how it feels to be discriminated against,and looked upon as less than. Having the police called on us, on a daily basis for just being black,now this. I’m from Baltimore also. If this happened to her she would of tried to sue 🤦🏽♀️
— Don't Let Him Divide Us💔 (@nwilson112362) March 17, 2019
Moore attempted to apologize later on Sunday, though her comments served to further fuel some people’s outrage. She said she was “totally unaware of the different types of Muslims,” referring to the Sikhs she’d made fear-mongering comments about.
“Look y’all I’m not racist and never have I ever been,” she said. “We have Muslims in my family; however, I was totally unaware of the different types of Muslim. So, yes, I admit I’m ignorant to the facts so teach me.”
Jess Hilarious is blatantly ignorant lmao, first off those were Sikhs on the plane and besides, had they been Muslims why would you behave that way despite having Muslims in your family? 🤦🏻♀️ pic.twitter.com/0GOMnSo8b7
— Too $hort (@sukhisofly) March 17, 2019
Sikhism, the fifth largest religion in the world, is not a sect of Islam. It’s a monotheistic faith founded in the Punjab region of India about 500 years ago. Sikh means “seeker of knowledge” in Punjabi and followers of the religion believe everyone has equal status before God, who created the universe and all faiths.
Sikhs avoid cutting their hair as a symbol of their love and respect for God. Men ― and some women ― cover their hair with turbans to keep it neat and clean.
In the U.S., members of the Sikh community are regular targets of hate crimes. Often, the perpetrators are Islamophobes who ignorantly assume that the Sikhs they attack are Muslims.
Moore’s remarks came just days after a gunman opened fire on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing at least 50 people. The accused shooter appears to have espoused white supremacist beliefs.
Moore apologized again on Monday, saying that when she posted the videos on Sunday, she hadn’t been aware of the existence of Sikhs or the New Zealand massacre (news of the deadly shootings broke late last Thursday in the U.S.). She said she plans to donate $15,000 to families of the victims in New Zealand.
“There’s being a picture painted of me like I’m a xenophobe, or I’m racist, or I’m prejudice,” she said. “So I wrote a statement … Naturally, in my previous post, I was defensive. But that happens when you don’t take the time to really know what’s transpiring.”
In understanding the error of my actions, I have to first acknowledge the rooted issues which means racially profiling a group of individuals based on their appearance and on top of that publicizing it on e platform where others could be hurt by it and others were hurt from it.
The feeling of anger and hurt about the situation is very familiar to me, especially being a black woman so I should definitely empathize more with being racially profiled. On top of that, the climate that this country is in ― that didn’t do nothing but add fuel to a wildfire that we’re still fighting to contain.
The actress said she wanted to apologize to the passengers she’d disparaged as well as the Sikh and Muslim communities. She noted that she “didn’t get anyone kicked off the plane,” as some social media users had suggested.
“Bear with me, I’m still learning,” Moore said. “A lot of [Sikhs] reached out to me, educating me on who they are. … Honestly, I’m young. I’m growing in this shit and I don’t understand the power that I have.”