Walt Disney and YouTube have cut ties with internet celebrity Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg, following a series of anti-Semitic videos. The videos in question have been pulled down, but some date as far back as August 2016.
One video featured a pair of men in India holding up a sign that read “death to all Jews,” with Kjellberg reacting. Another featured a man dressed as Jesus Christ, saying “Hitlser did absolutely nothing wrong.” Both of these videos were created for, and paid by Kjellberg via online service Fiverr.
“Wearing a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat from President Donald Trump’s campaign, Mr. Kjellberg used a photo of Hitler as a segue between clips,” the Wall Street Journal wrote in their original report (via Polygon). “Mr. Kjellberg says the material is portrayed in jest. He showed a clip from a Hitler speech in a Sept. 24 video criticizing a YouTube policy, posted swastikas drawn by his fans on Oct. 15 and watched a Hitler video in a brown military uniform to conclude a Dec. 8 video. He also played the Nazi Party anthem before bowing to a swastika in a mock resurrection ritual on Jan. 14, and included a very brief Nazi salute with a Hitler voice-over saying ‘Sieg Heil’ and the text ‘Nazi Confirmed’ near the beginning of a Feb. 5 video.”
Maker Studios – a division of Disney – cut ties with Kjellberg over the anti-Semitic jokes, removing all traces of him from their website. Kjellberg is one of the largest YouTube personalities, with over 53 million subscribers. He is still featured prominently on game key marketplace G2A, who sponsor him.
“Although Felix has created a following by being provocative and irreverent, he clearly went too far in this case,” a representative of Maker Studios told the Wall Street Journal. “The resulting videos are inappropriate.”
YouTube has also cancelled Kjellberg's second videos series, which airs on premium service YouTube Red.
“We’ve decided to cancel the release of Scare PewDiePie Season 2,” a YouTube representative told Polygon, “and we’re removing the PewDiePie channel from Google Preferred.”
Kjellberg posted to Tumblr yesterday to address the issue.
“Some have been pointing to my videos and saying that I am giving credibility to the anti-Semitic movement,” he wrote. “ I was trying to show how crazy the modern world is, specifically some of the services available online.”
“I think it’s important to say something and I want to make one thing clear: I am in no way supporting any kind of hateful attitudes,” he continued. “… I make videos for my audience. I think of the content that I create as entertainment, and not a place for any serious political commentary. I know my audience understand that and that is why they come to my channel. Though this was not my intention, I understand that these jokes were ultimately offensive.”
We’ll update this story as it develops.