A writer behind a prank video in which conservative political commentator Tomi Lahren inadvertently calls President Donald Trump a fool in Hindi is speaking out about what compelled him to pull the ruse.
New York City-based comedy writer Ali-Asghar Abedi says the video itself may appear to be a petty joke, but his goal was to show how critical the role is that pundits play. Lahren currently hosts Fox Nation’s “Final Thoughts.”
“They command large audiences, yet are barely informed themselves, which is frightening because it adversely impacts the electorate and ultimately electoral outcomes,” Abedi told NBC Asian America.
A FOX News representative declined to comment.
In the 30-second clip Lahren posted and then deleted from her social media earlier this week, she reaches out to her “amazing fans in India to thank them for supporting Donald Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ agenda.”
She says “President Trump is wise like an owl, or as you guys would say in Hindi ― which I hope I’m pronouncing this right ― President Trump is wise like an ulloo.”
While the word ulloo’s literal meaning in Hindi is owl, it is more commonly used as a slang word in India to call someone a fool or an idiot.
The backstory is that Abedi paid $85 to book Lahren on Cameo, a video sharing app wherein a user can pay money to celebrities who have signed up on it to record a personalized message for a fee.
Others have recently used the app for various reasons. The actor John Ratzenberger, who played a mail carrier on the NBC comedy “Cheers,” recently recorded a message due to a Cameo request to help save the U.S. Postal Service. Talk show host John Oliver got the actor Steve Guttenberg to read the news and talk about the importance of wearing masks through the app on his show.
Inspired by Oliver, Abedi said he wanted to use Cameo for comedic purposes. He reached out to Lahren after getting the idea for the prank specifically because she was available on the app, he was familiar with her work and the price fit his budget, he said.
“So I typed a few words for her to say in a Cameo request last Sunday. I was fairly confident she wouldn’t bother to dig deep enough to understand the real meaning of ulloo. Luckily she followed the script pretty closely,” Abedi said.
Lahren — a vocal Trump supporter — did not verify the meaning of the message, in which she essentially called Trump an idiot, before it backfired.
“It suggests that she either lacks curiosity or isn’t willing to do the work required to offer informed views, which would be fine if she wasn’t paid for her opinions. But when you’re offering opinions to large audiences on topics you’re not informed on, you’re spreading ignorance. Ultimately, nobody wins when ill-informed views are amplified on Fox News or Facebook,” Abedi said.
Abedi, who is British American of Indian descent, believes his identity offers him a unique perspective to approach comedy. He wanted to reach Indian audiences to both entertain and inform them.
“I certainly didn’t expect the video to go viral the way it did. I think it exposes that the pundit class will say anything for money,” he said. “Sadly, they’re incentivized to offer controversial views and don’t bother to inform themselves before mouthing off. Based on the reactions to the video both online and even on Indian TV, it looks like this point was clearly made.”