Nick Cannon is apologizing for anti-Semitic sentiments made recently on his podcast, a day after ViacomCBS cut ties with the TV host.
“First and foremost I extend my deepest and most sincere apologies to my Jewish sisters and brothers for the hurtful and divisive words that came out of my mouth during my interview with Richard Griffin,” Cannon tweeted Wednesday evening.
He continued: “They reinforced the worst stereotypes of a proud and magnificent people and I feel ashamed of the uninformed and naïve place that these words came from. The video of this interview has since been removed.”
Cannon further said he wanted to “assure my Jewish friends, new and old, that this is only the beginning of my education—I am committed to deeper connections, more profound learning and strengthening the bond between our two cultures today and every day going forward.”
It was an about-face for Cannon, who had previously stopped short of apologizing for a controversial discussion on his podcast with Richard “Professor Griff” Griffin, a former member of Public Enemy who was fired for making anti-Semitic remarks in 1989. During the discussion, Cannon promoted anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and praised Louis Farrakhan.
That discussion prompted ViacomCBS to fire Cannon on Tuesday. Following his apology late Wednesday, Fox said he’ll keep his job on “The Masked Singer.”
Cannon, who created and hosted Viacom-owned VH1’s sketch comedy series “Wild ‘N Out,” shared a lengthy statement to his Facebook account earlier Wednesday saying he was “deeply saddened” that the network refused to use this opportunity to “grow closer together and learn more about one another.” He also demanded ownership of “Wild ‘N Out.”
Cannon, 39, has been partnered with Viacom for over two decades. “Wild ‘N Out” has aired on Viacom’s MTV and VH1 since it debuted in 2005. Season 15 premiered in April 2020.
“Instead the moment was stolen and highjacked (sic) to make an example of an outspoken black man. I will not be bullied, silenced, or continuously oppressed by any organization, group, or corporation,” a defensive Cannon wrote in the earlier Facebook post. “I am disappointed that Viacom does not understand or respect the power of the black community.”
When ViacomCBS fired Cannon Tuesday, the network said in a statement to USA TODAY it “condemns bigotry of any kind and we categorically denounce all forms of anti-Semitism.”
The statement continued: “While we support ongoing education and dialogue in the fight against bigotry, we are deeply troubled that Nick has failed to acknowledge or apologize for perpetuating anti-Semitism, and we are terminating our relationship with him.”
Following his apology Wednesday, Fox affirmed Cannon would remain with “Masked Singer,” saying in a statement, “He is clear and remorseful that his words were wrong and lacked both understanding and context, and inadvertently promoted hate. This was important for us to observe.”
The statement continued: “Nick has sincerely apologized, and quickly taken steps to educate himself and make amends. On that basis and given a belief that this moment calls for dialogue, we will move forward with Nick and help him advance this important conversation, broadly. Fox condemns all forms of hate directed toward any community and we will combat bigotry of any kind.”
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The Nick Cannon podcast that sparked the controversy
In a June episode of his “Cannon’s Class” podcast with Griffin, Cannon promoted anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about the Rothschild family and “the bloodlines that control everything even outside of America.” Cannon also praised Nation of Islam leader Farrakhan and his ideology. (The Southern Poverty Law Center recognizes Nation of Islam as a “hate group.”)
“The people that don’t have (melanin) are – and I’m going to say this carefully – a little less,” Cannon said. “When they didn’t have the power of the sun, it started to deteriorate them so then, they’re acting out of fear, they’re acting out of low self-esteem, they’re acting out of a deficiency.”
Cannon continued: “So, therefore, the only way that they can act is evil. They have to rob, steal, rape, kill in order to survive. So then, these people that didn’t have what we have – and when I say ‘we,’ I speak of the melanated people – they had to be savages. … They’re acting as animals so they’re the ones that are actually closer to animals. They’re the ones that are actually the true savages.”
“The Masked Singer” host added that his statements aren’t anti-Semitic because “Semitic people are Black people” and that Black people are the “true Hebrews.”
After sparking backlash, Cannon took to Facebook to defend himself, writing, “I have no hate in my heart nor malice intentions.”
“I do not condone hate speech nor the spread of hateful rhetoric. We are living in a time when it is more important than ever to promote unity and understanding,” he wrote.
Cannon added: “The Black and Jewish communities have both faced enormous hatred, oppression persecution and prejudice for thousands of years and in many ways have and will continue to work together to overcome these obstacles.”
However, Cannon did not apologize at the time.
“I am an advocate for people’s voices to be heard openly, fairly and candidly,” he wrote. “In today’s conversation about anti-racism and social justice, I think we all – including myself – must continue educating one another and embrace uncomfortable conversations – it’s the only way we ALL get better. I encourage more healthy dialogue and welcome any experts, clergy, or spokespersons to any of my platforms to hold me accountable and correct me in any statement that I’ve made that has been projected as negative. Until then, I hold myself accountable for this moment and take full responsibility because My intentions are only to show that as a beautiful human species we have way more commonalities than differences.”
Jewish leaders condemn Cannon’s ‘hurtful words’
The Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish leaders on Wednesday condemned what they called “hurtful words” and anti-Semitic theories expressed by Cannon.
Prominent members of the U.S. Jewish community told the Associated Press that the post fell well short, and they demanded an apology.
“It’s not enough to say, ‘I’m not a racist, I’m not a bigot,’” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. “The statements he made are hurtful, and they’re false.”
Cooper said Cannon had reached out to him Wednesday to have a conversation, but he preferred to speak to him only after Cannon issued an apology.
He said Cannon should read and heed the words of Martin Luther King Jr., who “dedicated his life for civil rights for all and a color-blind America.” Cooper also said he would advise him to seek out the guidance of basketball Hall of Famer-turned-writer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who has condemned several sports and entertainment celebrities for anti-Semitic posts.
“When I first heard about the comments Mr. Cannon made, it was very, very disappointing,” said Oren Segal, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. “We’re in a time where hatred of all kinds is very much apparent. It’s in the news every day.”
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“Anti-Semitism in particular over the past several years has been something that we’ve seen increase, as well as racism and other issues,” Segal added. “So when you hear an individual who has a public profile, who has influence over people, make statements that are highly offensive to the Jewish community, the first reaction is disappointment.”
Anti-Semitic violent attacks worldwide rose by 18% in 2019 compared with the previous year, according to a report published in April by Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary Jewry.
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Cooper said that Cannon should reject Farrakhan’s hate speech and “reduce the long statement to two sentences” — a simple apology.
“First of all, apologizing to the Jewish community for questioning our identity,” Cooper said. “It’s simply outrageous … and that’s not too much to ask for someone who says that he’s not a bigot.”
Cannon’s apology came by nightfall. In a series of tweets, the TV host also expressed his gratitude to the “Rabbis, community leaders and institutions who reached out to me to help enlighten me, instead of chastising me.”
I want to express my gratitude to the Rabbis, community leaders and institutions who reached out to me to help enlighten me, instead of chastising me.
— Nick Cannon (@NickCannon) July 16, 2020
Diddy defends Nick Cannon
Sean “P. Diddy” Combs stood by Cannon Wednesday and showed his support by offering him a “home” at Revolt TV, a network the rapper founded.
“The only way we can change the narrative, educate, and uplift each other is if we do it together. Nick, my brother, I am here to support you fully in any way you need,” Diddy wrote on Instagram Wednesday alongside a photo of him and Cannon.
He continued: “What we are not going to do is turn our backs on our brothers and sisters when they challenge the system. Come home to @REVOLTTV, which is truly BLACK OWNED! We got your back and love you and what you have done for the culture.”
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Contributing: Andrea Mandell, Charles Trepany, Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Nick Cannon apologizes for anti-Semitic words, keeps ‘Masked Singer’