Flemish government executive, target of ‘tactless TV gag’, accepts apology
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Flemish government executive, target of ‘tactless TV gag’, accepts apology

Ayan Mohamud Yusuf, government executive, not cleaner. © Belga

A Flemish government employee who appeared unexpectedly on a satirical TV programme showing her as a cleaning worker has made her peace with the show and its presenter, she posted on Twitter.

Ayan Mohamud Yusuf is a government official who works in the private office of Flemish minister-president Jan Jambon (N-VA). She is also a child of Somalian refugees, and arrived in Flanders at the age of 17.

The TV show De ideale wereld is a satirical comedy, modelled somewhat on The Daily Show from the US or Mock the Week from the UK, which uses real news reports to make satirical points.

In the extract in question, viewers were shown Flemish ministers ending a meeting, while staff cleared up behind them. The camera focussed on Yusuf, while the presenter, the Dutch comedian Jan Jaap Van der Wal, commented, “Here we see a black woman who has to come to clean up as old powerful white men leave the conference room”.

My mother and I had to cry when we saw it,” Yusuf told Het Nieuwsblad later. Her shock was not only personal, she said, the comments were also insulting to all cleaning staff everywhere, particularly in these times of pandemic, when cleaning is of the utmost importance.

According to sources who saw more of the official video than was seen in the clip used on the show, Jan Jambon himself – the most powerful old white man in the room – had taken part in wiping down the furniture before leaving.

The outrage took on proportions the TV producers cannot have imagined, and a reconciliation was clearly required. The programme’s producers and its presenter have now apologised.

I am happy that things have been cleared up between Jan Jaap and DIW and me”, she said. “I am relieved that he understands what hurt me so deeply. You can get something positive out of every situation. We leave this behind and focus on the future again. From the bottom of my heart, I thank everyone who supported me. Through you, I have regained my strength.”