YouTube star PewDiePie pledged to donate to an anti-hate group following criticism for peddling anti-Semitic content – then decided to pull his donation after backlash from his fans.
PewDiePie, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, announced on Tuesday he would be donating $50,000 to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in a video celebrating his 100-millionth YouTube subscriber. He explained in the video, “I feel like I’ve finally come to terms with the responsibility I have as a creator — about 100,000,000 subs too late, but you know.”
But two days later, Kjellberg uploaded a video to his channel announcing he was rescinding his pledge, saying he “didn’t know a lot of things that surfaced throughout this whole thing about the charity.”
“I made the mistake of picking a charity that I was advised to instead of picking a charity that I’m personally passionate about,” he added in the video. “Which is 100 percent my fault.”
In the immediate aftermath of Tuesday’s announcement, it was unclear whether or not Kjellberg’s pledge was genuine. On Wednesday, the ADL released a statement saying that they had not heard anything from the vlogger regarding a donation.
“ADL learned about the potential donation from Felix Kjellberg when everyone else did: when he made the announcement on his channel earlier this week. We have not received any communication from him beyond that,” the statement read. In an email to The Post on Thursday, a spokesperson confirmed the statement still stood.
The ADL, which was founded over 100 years ago to combat anti-Semitism, was always an odd choice for Kjellberg. The YouTube star has long been accused of being anti-Semitic in his videos – he has made crass jokes and featured swastikas and other Nazi-related images in his videos, including a banner that said “Death to all Jews.”
His page was endorsed by neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, who for a time referred to themselves as “The world’s #1 PewDiePie fansite.”
In 2017, Kjellberg lost a multi-million dollar deal with Disney over his anti-Semitic rhetoric. He apologized afterwards, but then went on a rambling tirade about the media, telling Wall Street Journal journalists who wrote about his content to “try again, mother-f–kers.”
After Disney severed ties with him, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt praised the company in a statement.
“ADL commends Disney’s decision to sever ties with PewDiePie following his posting of videos on YouTube containing swastikas and other anti-Semitic content,” the statement read. “This clearly crosses a line, but is becoming all-too commonplace on social media.”
Additionally, Kjellberg’s name was dropped by white supremacist Brenton Tarrant, who murdered 49 worshippers at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. In a Facebook stream during the rampage, Tarrant said, “Remember, lads, subscribe to PewDiePie.” Kjellberg said he was “sickened” that Tarrant mentioned him by name.
Many of his fans believed his decision to donate to the ADL was not out of the goodness of his heart. Some particularly anti-Semitic commenters began to spew conspiracy theories that he was being “blackmailed” by the ADL into donating the money.
In a tweet, Kjellberg acknowledged that “making a donation to the ADL doesn’t make sense to everyone, especially since they’ve outright spoken against me.” But the tweet has recently been deleted.
Kjellberg says he will still donate the $50,000, but has not yet decided on a charity and will take his time doing so.
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