Disney has reportedly cut ties with popular YouTube streamer Felix Kjellberg, aka Pewdiepie, following a controversy over his production of anti-Semitic videos. Maker Studios, a division of Disney, issued a statement, while noting that he had editorial independence in producing them.
“Although Felix has created a following by being provocative and irreverent, he clearly went too far in this case and the resulting videos are inappropriate,” a spokesperson told The Wall-Street Journal.
WSJ reports that Kjellberg has posted nine videos with anti-Semitic content in the last several months. Among them were a video in which two men held a sign that read, "Death to All Jews," another with a man dressed as Jesus Christ saying, "Hitler did absolutely nothing wrong," and several that included imagery of swastikas or Hitler. Three of the videos have since been taken down.
The two men in the "Death to All Jews" video were hired through the freelance service Fiverr, and later apologized, saying they didn't realize the implications of the statement they were hired to convey. They were banned from Fiverr, along with Kjellberg, who asked for the service to lift the ban on the two men he hired.
Kjellberg issued a statement after the controversy began circulating, distancing himself from hate speech. While he claimed he was merely trying to point out the absurdity of online services like Fiverr, he did openly recognize their offensive nature.
"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," he said. "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.” He also stated he did not support "any kind of hateful attitudes" or "hate-based groups."
Joke or not, though, Jonathan Vick of the Anti-Defamation League said it presents a real problem in normalizing hate-speech. "“Just putting it out there brings it more and more into the mainstream,” Vick said. To that end, he pointed out that a neo-Nazi Web site actually praised Kjellberg and thanked him for making the public "more comfortable" with their views.