- PewDiePie initially announced this week that he would donate $US50,000 to the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish anti-hate group.
- But the YouTuber said in a video posted Thursday that he was rescinding his pledge after his announcement drew backlash – some of it anti-Semitic and based in conspiracy theories – from his fan base.
- PewDiePie said he had pledged the donation to the ADL to try to move away from past controversies, including the Christchurch, New Zealand, suspect saying “Subscribe to PewDiePie” before killing more than 50 people.
- PewDiePie said Thursday that “a lot of things” about the ADL had surfaced since his announcement, and he instead wants to choose a charity he’s “personally passionate about.”
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PewDiePie, the famous video-game blogger, has rescinded a pledge to donate $US50,000 to a Jewish anti-hate group after a revolt by his fans, engulfing what was supposed to be a public-relations effort into controversy.
The Swedish YouTube celebrity posted a video Thursday in which he announced he was cancelling his initial pledge to the Anti-Defamation League, saying he had learned “a lot of things” about the group. PewDiePie said he wanted to instead pick a charity he was “personally passionate about,” and that it didn’t feel “genuine” to make the donation to the ADL.
PewDiePie, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, had said a day earlier that he was making the $US50,000 donation as a way to “move past” controversies. But the announcement was met with condemnation from fans, who questioned why PewDiePie was making a donation to the ADL, a group that has previously spoken out against him. Some of his fan base also floated conspiracy theories across social media that PewDiePie was being blackmailed by the ADL into making the donation.
In explaining why he was retracting his donation, PewDiePie said he’d “made the mistake of picking a charity that I was advised, instead of picking a charity that I’m personally passionate about.” Now, PewDiePie said he plans to take the time to “properly” choose where to contribute his $US50,000 donation, something made possible by a partnership with coupon-finding browser extension Honey.
PewDiePie said Thursday he saw the donation as an “opportunity” to separate himself from the alt right. In March, the suspect in a mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, told viewers on a livestream to “subscribe to PewDiePie” moments before more than 50 people were killed.
“[The donation] wasn’t to try to clear my name or save grace. If it was, I would have done it years ago,” PewDiePie said in his YouTube video. “But after the Christchurch tragedy, I felt a responsibility to do something about it, because it’s no longer just about me. It affected other people in a way, and I’m not OK with that.”
PewDiePie has been attached to several controversies in his nearly decade-long career of being a YouTuber. He’s uttered racial slurs and made Nazi jokes in his videos and on his livestreams. In 2017, nine videos of his were found to include “anti-Semitic jokes or Nazi imagery.”
In the wake of the revelation, Disney cut ties with PewDiePie, a move that the ADL commended.
“This is clearly hate speech … PewDiePie’s effort to defend it as an attempt to be funny falls flat,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement in 2017. “PewDiePie is entitled to his views, but neither Disney nor any other company has any obligation to support his wide dissemination of hate speech.”
After PewDiePie made his initial announcement about the ADL donation, his fan base was quick to criticise the YouTuber, an outspoken free-speech advocate, for giving money to an organisation they say has helped to clamp down on free speech by policing hate speech.
“His money would have been used to destroy the livelihoods of other content creators, which is no bueno,” one Reddit user said. “I’m happy he’s researched them more and saw that.”
PewDiePie nor Honey responded to Business Insider’s request for comment by the time of publication.
The ADL said in a statement that the organisation has not been in contact with PewDiePie at all “beyond his public posts.”
“ADL learned about the potential donation from Felix Kjellberg when everyone else did: when he made the announcement on his channel earlier this week,” an ADL spokesperson told Business Insider.
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