Stephen Colbert doubted existence of man Tudor Dixon cited in debate — but he's real

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A Dearborn resident whose existence was doubted by comedian Stephen Colbert during a monologue last week has a message for the CBS late night host: I am real and so is my switch to the Republican Party.

On "The Late Show," Colbert said a person described by Tudor Dixon during a debate last week with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer must have been "totally made up" by the GOP nominee for governor. He was skeptical of her story that a Michigan man approached her complaining of an inappropriate book he found in a school library after failing to find help from Democrats, saying sarcastically: "That happened."

But the man, Khalil Othman, told the Free Press he is an actual person and did attend the Dixon campaign rally she referred to.

"To claim that I'm not here, I don't exist, I'm not human, that's absolute ignorance," Othman, 41, a father of five and former Dearborn city council and State House candidate, told the Free Press. "If this person did his due diligence and start researching or has his team do a little bit of research of who's this person who attended Dixon's rally, they will be able to find my name right away easy on social media. Just Google it."

Dixon also criticized Colbert for doubting Othman's existence during a campaign stop Sunday in Dearborn that Othman attended.

"I told his story (during the debate)," Dixon said Sunday of Othman to hundreds in Dearborn. "And Stephen Colbert picks it up. ... And they make this whole skit about how this has never happened. That's what he said, this story never happened. That's where the Democrats are right now. You don't exist, your stories are not important."

The existence of Khalil Othman, of Dearborn, who was referenced during a debate last week by GOP nominee for governor Tudor Dixon, was questioned by comedian Stephen Colbert during an opening monologue on his CBS late night show Oct. 26. Othman is shown in a July 13, 2021, photo speaking during a rally outside Dearborn City Hall to protest the city's response to flooding.

On Oct. 21, Othman attended a rally for Dixon in Flat Rock in which he declared to the crowd he's now a Republican, posting a video on Facebook of his remarks later that night. Earlier this year, he had run for State Representative as a Democrat in a primary that he lost.

"My name is Khalil Othman. I came all the way from Dearborn, Michigan," he said to loud applause. "I'm here along with two parents, concerned parents ... against these sexually explicit books."

Posted by Khalil Othman on Friday, October 21, 2022

Othman has been one of many people in Dearborn attending protests in recent weeks against several books in the libraries of Dearborn public schools. The school district has removed six books so far, several of them with LGBTQ themes.

"I am a proud Muslim American who expresses my values and concerns all the time," Othman said in Flat Rock. "Dearborn has been voting Democrat blue for the last decade or two decades. But not anymore. On behalf of myself and my family, I guarantee you for sure that my family and my friends will vote for Republicans."

Related:Dearborn divisions over LGBTQ books spur national debate as candidates compete for votes

More:A Michigan town may lose its only library after its staff refused to remove an LGBTQ book

In his Facebook post, Othman, said he has been "a loyal Democrat" since immigrating almost 20 years ago from Yemen.

"Never once did I ever vote Republican," he wrote. "However, the situation with the sexually explicit material in the schools was for me a bridge too far. When it comes to my kids and my family, I will not budge."

Republican candidate Tudor Dixon speaks during the debate with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on WXYZ Channel 7 at Oakland University in Rochester on Oct. 24, 2022.
Republican candidate Tudor Dixon speaks during the debate with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on WXYZ Channel 7 at Oakland University in Rochester on Oct. 24, 2022.

A few days later during the Oct. 25 debate between Dixon and Whitmer, Dixon described Othman's story. Dixon didn't say his name during the debate, but a spokeswoman for the campaign later confirmed to the Free Press it was Othman. During the Sunday rally in Dearborn, Dixon said he was from Dearborn.

"I had a gentleman come up to me just a few nights ago," Dixon said during the debate. "And he said: 'I found content in my school library describing how to have sex to my son. I went to the Democrats and I said, I cannot believe that this is in there.' ... He said 'just a few weeks ago, not only was I a Democrat, but I was running for office as a Democrat.' He said because Democrats won't stand up for our children and go back to the basics, 'I'm leaving the Democratic Party.' "

The next day, Oct. 26, Colbert mocked Dixon as an "anti-choice MAGA Republican," which he said is "very unpopular in Michigan," and so she's now turning to the books issue to drum up support.

Colbert poked fun at Dixon's concerns and said: "Dixon is not the only one worried about this issue. So is this guy she totally made up." He then aired a clip of Dixon talking about Othman.

After the clip ran, Colbert said: "OK, fine. That happened," raising his two hands with two fingers extended to indicate sarcastic quotation marks. "But even if it did, if someone found a book that didn't like the school library, why would they go to the Democrats?"

Adopting the voice of a haughty man outraged on the phone with a Democrat, Colbert continued: "That's like saying: 'Excuse me is this Chuck Schumer's office? I didn't like the finale of 'House of the Dragon.' Also, this natural peanut butter is way too oily when it's in the cupboard but it gets too hard when it's in the fridge. I'm voting Republican! Good day, sir.' "

During the Sunday appearance in Dearborn, Dixon sought to frame the Colbert dig as an example of liberals not listening to voters.

"But I am listening to you," she said. "I want to listen to you. I want to take your concerns telling, and I hope that you can trust me and then I can earn your vote."

Stephen Colbert of "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" on Nov. 15, 2018.
Stephen Colbert of "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" on Nov. 15, 2018.

Othman said he has been disappointed with the Democrats on the issue of certain books. Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud and U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, who's running for a new district that includes Dearborn, are Democrats who both have come out in support of the books.

"The Democratic establishment ... has been ruling Dearborn for the last two decades," Othman said. "The parents did not receive any kind of support from the whole top leadership, all elected officials, all Democratic leadership."

More:GOP candidates join Dearborn residents in protest over LGBTQ books in schools

More:Book bans spreading across Michigan: What's driving them

Opinion:I'm a queer Muslim. Dearborn schools pulling LGBTQ books puts kids in danger

Whitmer said during the debate she and others are listening to the concerns of parents, but also want to be inclusive and ensure the safety of all students. President of the Dearborn school board Roxanne McDonald said last month that LGBTQ students don't feel safe in Dearborn amid protests that included anti-gay rhetoric.

Othman said Colbert's remarks about him are part of an effort "to hurt the momentum of" Republicans winning over Muslim votes in Dearborn.

"Right now, it's a crunch time for for both candidates, and he's trying whatever he can do with his media influence to hurt her campaign," Othman said. "He doesn't know me."

Contact Niraj Warikoo: or Twitter @nwarikoo.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Stephen Colbert doubted existence of man Dixon cited — but he's real