Maker Studios, a Disney-owned collection of thousands of YouTube channels, announced Monday night that it had cut ties with 27-year-old Felix Kjellberg, a.k.a. PewDiePie, the most popular YouTube star in the world. The decision was made after a Wall Street Journal report highlighted he had posted multiple videos featuring anti-Semitic imagery.
According to the newspaper, PewDiePie showed a clip from a Hitler speech on Sept. 24, 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. PewDiePie also reportedly played the Nazi Party anthem in a Jan. 14 video and gave a “very brief Nazi salute with a Hitler voice-over saying ‘Sieg Heil’ and the text ‘Nazi Confirmed'” in a Feb. 5 video. Most of these videos have since then been pulled from YouTube.
In a statement to Variety, Maker Studios acknowledges, “Felix has created a following by being provocative and irreverent, [but] he clearly went too far in this case and the resulting videos are inappropriate. Maker Studios has made the decision to end our affiliation with him going forward.”
Just hours after after Disney’s decision, YouTube also turned its back on PewDiePie. A company spokesperson confirmed to The Verge earlier this morning that the second season of PewDiePie’s original series, “Scare PewDiePie,” would not appear on YouTube’s paid advertising-free streaming service, YouTube Red. On top that, PewDiePie’s channel has also been removed from Google Preferred, an advertising platform that aggregates content, making it easier for content creators to obtain brand sponsorships. PewDiePie will probably see a decline in income because of that, since brands tend to pay extra to reach targeted audiences of a ‘Preferred’ creator.
PewDiePie reacted to the anti-Semitic turmoil Sunday in a post on his Tumblr account, saying “in no way [am I] supporting any kind of hateful attitudes. I know my audience understands that and that is why they come to my channel. Though this was not my intention, I understand that these jokes were ultimately offensive. As laughable as it is to believe that I might actually endorse these people, to anyone unsure on my standpoint regarding hate-based groups: No, I don’t support these people in any way.”
A few days after the story broke, PewDiePie also officially reacted to everything on YouTube. In this response, the 27-year-old blames the Wall Street Journal, and any other media outlet for that matter, for taking things out of context. He also wonders why so many people are celebrating the cancellation of his show. “I’m just an amateur comedian, trying to be funny.” He concludes by repeating he doesn’t endorse any hate group, saying he’ll keep making YouTube videos, and thanking everyone for the support he received over these past days.
Check out his 11-minute response here: