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Larry Wilmore on Trevor Noah Criticism: People Don’t Know Him Yet

Since giving Trevor Noah the coveted Daily Show gig, Comedy Central has spent more time defending its replacement for Jon Stewart than championing him.

Shortly after naming Noah as the new host, the network encountered a social media backlash when old Tweets from the 31-year-old South African comedian – some from as far back as 2009 –  made him seem anti-Semitic and sexist were uncovered.

Nightly Show host Larry Wilmore, whose show will air behind Noah, argued that much of the criticism stems from the fact that he is largely unknown in the U.S. “People don’t know who Trevor is,” Wilmore said Friday morning on CBS This Morning. “I haven’t even met Trevor yet.”

Noah has only made three appearances on The Daily Show, having first debuted in December. He made his U.S. television debut in 2012 on Jay Leno's Tonight Show and also appeared on CBS' Late Show. “Because people don’t know him you have to try to paint a picture of him,” Wilmore continued. “So people are using whatever they have.”

Wilmore added that no matter who was taking over The Daily Show, that person would have a tough time considering the legacy Stewart will leave behind. “A young Jon Stewart would have had difficulty following the present day Jon Stewart,” he said “Once he’s doing the show some of those things will go away.”

Prior to discussing the controversy, Wilmore playfully responded to a question from Gayle King, where she asked if the situation around Noah would have played out different if he were white. "Do you think this would have happened if he was white?"

"If what would have happened? Would he have gotten a late-night job? Yes, that would have happened if he were white," responded Wilmore, noting the lack of diversity in late night at a time when so many spots have become vacant.

Wilmore was also asked about his own show and how it’s such a departure from the Stephen Colbert-fronted Colbert Report, which populated that timeslot for years. “What he did was so unique and it was so entertaining,” he said. “You had to do something completely different.”

That includes in-depth conversations about race relations and hearing from those who don’t get their voices heard often, especially on late-night television. “[Jon Stewart] wanted to do a show to give a platform to voices that don’t always get heard.” Wilmore, who considers himself a die-hard news junkie, added that its possible to mix serious, real-world issues with the traditional comedy that late night viewers are accustomed to.

“You can have fun and still have that conversation at the same time.”