Jimmy Kimmel

The White House has addressed a petition that denounces a Jimmy Kimmel Live segment in which a child jokes about killing Chinese people to help erase the U.S. debt.

"The Federal government cannot force ABC to remove this show," a statement from the White House read. "The First Amendment of the Constitution protects free speech, even if individuals might personally find it offensive or distasteful. It may be upsetting when people say things we might personally disagree with, but the principle of protected free speech is an important part of who we are as a nation."

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The young boy's unscripted comment — "Kill everyone in China" — was made during a sketch in which children commented on news events. Aimed at making fun of childish politicians, the segment aired in October on Kimmel's late-night show.

After a group called 80-20, which identifies itself as a pan-Asian-American political organization, complained about the skit, ABC apologized in a letter dated Oct. 25. In the letter, the network said it would never purposefully do anything to upset the Chinese, Asian, or other communities. ABC also said that the segment will be removed from future airings or any other form of distribution, including online.