Can the US gov't force Jimmy Kimmel off the air?

This image July 3, 2013 released ABC shows Jimmy Kimmel on "Jimmy Kimmel Live."  The program was nominated for an Emmy award for outstanding variety series, Thursday, July 18, 2013.  (AP Photo/ABC, Randy Holmes)
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The White House has responded to a petition calling for an apology and the removal of Jimmy Kimmel's television show by saying the comedian can't be forced off the air.

More than 105,000 people signed a petition on the White House website after an October broadcast of ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live – it featured a segment in which Kimmel spoke to young children about US government debt owed to China.

One boy said "kill everyone in China" when Kimmel asked how the US should repay the Asian power.

But the White House said the Constitution protects free speech, even when it's offensive.

ABC and Kimmel have apologised, and the television network has removed the segment from future broadcasts and its online platforms.