Felix Kjellberg, the Swedish YouTube star better known by his alias, PewDiePie, has lost contracts with Google and Disney after a Wall Street Journal report pointed out what it identified as anti-Semitic language and imagery in his videos. Kjellberg’s channel, which features a mix of humor, opinion, and gaming videos, has the most subscribers on YouTube with more than 53 million.
Disney-owned Maker Studios was the first to sever ties, according to the Journal, apparently in response to the publication’s inquiries. A spokesperson told Variety: “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. Maker Studios has made the decision to end our affiliation with him going forward.”
Google-owned YouTube followed suit, cancelling the second season of Kjellberg’s reality show, Scare PewDiePie (which is produced by The Walking Dead’s Robert Kirkman) and removing him from Google Preferred, an aggregate program that connects advertisers with YouTube’s most popular channels. Google had previously removed ads from some of the videos.
The Wall Street Journal flagged nine videos, three of which have reportedly since been pulled from the site, as having anti-Semitic or Nazi-related comments and imagery. One of the videos in question, which has not yet been taken down, is a prank video in which Kjellberg pays two men to hold up a sign that reads “Death to All Jews” via the freelance website Fiverr. “I didn’t think they would actually do it,” Kjellberg says in the video, after the men display the sign and begin dancing.
Kjellberg responded to the controversy in a Tumblr post. “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 wrote. “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.”