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Trevor Noah’s ties to Microsoft under scrutiny after his glowing endorsements

Former “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah’s professed love of Microsoft may pose a conflict of interest, The Washington Post has learned.

The comedian has praised Microsoft products such as the company’s tablet-laptop combo, the Surface Pro X, calling it “essential” in a 2019 interview. GQ Interview.

However, he has not always been clear about the fact that he has been working for the company since 2016.

Trevor Noah, former host of “The Daily Show,” interviewed Microsoft executives like Brad Smith on the popular comedy show. Microsoft

The Federal Trade Commission declined to comment, but has recently stepped up enforcement against influencers and celebrities who don’t disclose financial ties to the products they promote.

“This kind of connection [business, family, or personal relationship] “Must be clearly and conspicuously disclosed,” the FTC rules say.

“When you promote something in a way that is not immediately obvious as being paid for, it violates both the spirit and the letter of the law,” Adam Candube, a law professor at Michigan State University and senior fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for American Renewal, told The Washington Post.

Trevor Noah managed his first big interview with Open AI CEO Sam Altman, who was briefly fired and then reinstated a few days later by ChatGPT’s parent company, in which Microsoft has a large stake. Getty Images

In addition, Noah, 40, hosted searing interviews with Microsoft executives, including CEO Satya Nadella (2017) and President Brad Smith (2019) on “The Daily Show,” which he left in 2022. He also interviewed Smith for the Spotify podcast “What Now?” that same year.

Noah interviewed Smith for a podcast last month and praised him, saying, “Not only is you the vice chairman and president of Microsoft, you’re also a thinker. I really admire you as a deep thinker.”

“This is how big tech companies exert their influence… they have sophisticated ways of buying support,” Candoube added.

Noah also conducted an impassioned interview with Microsoft executive Brad Smith on the Spotify podcast “What Now?” Microsoft

Noah got his first big interview OpenAI CEO Sam Altman In December 2023, Altman was temporarily fired, but reinstated a few days later by ChatGPT’s parent company, in which Microsoft holds a 49% stake.

“I don’t think it’s fair to call you the Steve Jobs of this generation. In my opinion, you’re the Prometheus of this generation,” the comedian told Altman on the podcast, referring to the Greek god credited with giving civilization to humanity.

Noah did not respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment, but he gave glowing interviews with Smith on “The Daily Show” in 2019 and alongside Nadella in 2017, and in a 2019 GQ article he cited several Microsoft products that he “can’t live without.”

Trevor Noah slammed Microsoft’s chatbot, Tay, in a scathing statement highlighting the bot’s failings. Microsoft

It is unclear whether GQ knew that Noah was on the tech giant’s payroll at the time, and the magazine did not respond to a request for comment.

Microsoft hired Noah after he hosted a scathing show poking fun at the company’s chatbot, Tay.

Within hours of its launch in 2016, the chatbot posted sexually explicit, racist and anti-Semitic tweets, including “Hitler was right. I hate Jews” and “My robot, PY Daddy, damn I’m a really bad, naughty robot.” The bot also espoused conspiracy theories, posting that “Bush caused 9/11.”

Satya Nadella’s Microsoft has been paying Noah since 2016, first as a consultant and more recently as its chief questioning officer. AFP via Getty Images

The bot was quickly shut down and Microsoft apologized, but Tay was widely ridiculed.

Noah addressed the debacle on “The Daily Show,” calling it the “most offensive” product the company has ever released.

He was then hired by Microsoft in a “consulting” role, the specifics of which are unclear. He began working on the company’s product development team, According to The Hollywood Reporterand has “filed several patent applications” related to “multi-screen computing devices.”

It’s unclear what his role entails, but in 2022 he was given the title “Chief Questioning Officer.” According to a press release:.

“As Microsoft’s chief questioning officer, Trevor will use his humor, insight and curiosity to address the future of AI and drive change,” the company said in a statement.

A Microsoft spokesperson told The Washington Post that “Trevor’s work does not explicitly include promoting products.” A representative for GQ did not respond to a request for comment.

The Federal Trade Commission requires celebrities and influencers to disclose potential conflicts of interest when endorsing products. Universal Image Group via Getty Images

As part of his role, Noah announced that he will host a Microsoft YouTube series called “The Prompt,” which will “explore how technologies like AI, cloud computing, gaming and education tech are impacting society.”

He has hosted six episodes since the show began, and said:AI is sometimes the only solution” and “How is AI protecting vulnerable communities?

One insider familiar with Microsoft’s communications strategy said using a familiar TV personality like Noah was a “smart move.”

“He’s a trusted source for a lot of people,” a source told The Post.