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Olivia Munn opens up about racist Zoombombing during AAPI meeting: ‘It was jarring’

The actor spoke to TODAY about the virtual event she hosted last week that was overtaken by “really violent, horrific graphic images and racial slurs and rhetoric.” 
/ Source: TODAY

While hosting a virtual event last week with the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, Olivia Munn and about 100 other members of the AAPI community were the targets of a “Zoombombing” that included a series of racist videos and images.

After the troubling experience, Munn took to Instagram to share some details about the incident and added that “the conversation WILL go on.” 

Munn, who has been one of several celebrities to bring attention to the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, spoke to TODAY about the Zoom incident and how she hopes our society is recognizing that the AAPI community is still “under attack.”

The “Violet” actor explained that members of the AAPI community as well as allies had planned to get together to celebrate the community during the meeting. However, shortly after the conversation began, the group was “Zoombombed with really violent, horrific graphic images and racial slurs and rhetoric.” 

The act of Zoombombing, online harassment where a person or group of people take control of a video call and show inappropriate or unexpected content, has become more common since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Munn said she was actually speaking when the images and videos started flashing across the screen.

“I haven’t experienced that before, so I wasn’t quite sure what was happening,” she shared. “It was just this onslaught.”

When a “really disturbing” clip appeared, she said everyone removed themselves from the meeting. 

She recalled, “Then the group that put this together, maybe six of us, we kind of got back on the phone. We decided that we wouldn’t allow something like this to stop our conversation. That is the intent of a Zoombomb like this.”

The group reconvened and tried to remain positive, but it was difficult to move forward. She said that while talking about anti-Asian hate they “were subjected to a real hate crime in real time.” 

Since the incident, Munn opened up about the participants, including herself, having anxiety. 

“I don’t want to use the word PTSD too lightly, but it was jarring for a lot of people,” she explained. “Images that we saw were really difficult and have stayed in our minds and the things that were said to us were really difficult to keep hearing in your head over and over as you try to piece together what it was that happened.”

The actor said that the situation is currently an open FBI investigation and she has been put in touch with someone at the agency. Going over the details of the event has caused her to relive the experience. 

The interruption of Munn’s discussion with entrepreneurs Amy Liu and Priscilla Tsai and NAPAWF’s Executive Director Sung Yeon was one of the many recent examples of the rise in attacks against the AAPI community, particularly women. 

A Harris Poll on behalf of NAPAWF conducted in 2021 found that 78 percent of AAPI women have been affected by anti-Asian racism. The FBI also reported that anti-Asian hate crimes increased by 77% in 2020. 

On May 20, 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law legislation that would address these hate crimes.

“My message to all of those who are hurting is we see you. The Congress said we see you. And we are committed to stop the hatred and the bias,” Biden said at the time.

Munn shared that seeing people, particularly the President, speak about protecting the community was extremely impactful, but there is more to do on a congressional level. 

“A lot of moments that end up in the news and social media (are) out in public," she explained. “People are able to see (it) happening out on the streets, in stores and subways. When they’re seeing something, they say something.” 

She continued, “I think the biggest thing that I’ve seen over the last couple years is that we have more allies, speaking up for us and looking out for the elderly (and women).” Munn referenced the series of spa shootings in March 2021 where six of the victims were Asian women. 

Seeing allies protect and defend AAPI elderly and women “has really given our community, I think, a sense of a small sense of peace because we know that we have more people looking out for us,” Munn said. 

But the work is not done. She added, “We do need more help getting out the word that our people are still under attack.”

Later in the interview, Munn pointed out the differences in how our society responds to injustices that affect minorities. 

“Whenever something happens to non-minority people, everyone is expected to speak out,” she began. “But when things happen to minorities, it’s usually the minorities that have to speak out for each other.”

She stressed the importance of allies using their platforms consistently, not just when hashtags are trending. 

“Because these things happen to our communities, to minority communities and people of color, whether they’re hashtags or not; whether things are trending or not; whether there are rallies or not. Just because you go to a rally, just because you donate a few times doesn’t mean that that’s stopping everything,” Munn said.  

The “Love Wedding Repeat” actor also briefly spoke about her son Malcolm, who she welcomed with comedian John Mulaney a couple months ago. 

Since becoming a mom, Munn said she thinks about the world her child is growing up in and she wonders how safe everyone is. 

She shared, “It’s really important for me that my son grows up to be a very kind and compassionate man who will fight against injustice and (do) the right thing, even when it’s hard to do and when no one else is doing it.”