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Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg, a popular streamer who boasts the second-largest subscriber count on YouTube, revealed in a video posted Thursday that he would not be going forward with a $50,000 donation to the Anti-Defamation League that he announced earlier this week. Kjellberg received the funds as part of a sponsorship with browser extension Honey.
“When we were planning the collaboration, we thought it would be nice to donate to a charity as a way to celebrate,” Kjellberg said in the video. “I made the mistake of picking a charity that I was advised instead of picking a charity I was personally passionate about. That’s 100 percent my fault.”
“I didn’t know a lot of things that surfaced throughout this whole thing that doesn’t fit at all. These are things I would have known myself if I just would have taken my time,” Kjellberg continued. “It doesn’t feel genuine for me to proceed with the donation at this point and I instead want to take my time, keep the intent that I had and do it with the right charity.”
“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 his public posts,” an ADL representative told The Hollywood Reporter.
“I saw it as an opportunity to put an end to these alt-right claims that had been thrown against me,” Kjellberg said in Thursday’s video of the decision to donate to ADL. The streamer has been at the center of controversy multiple times for anti-Semitic jokes on his channel, including a 2017 video in which he paid two individuals through the app Fiverr to hold up a sign that read “Death to all Jews” on camera. He later apologized in the same video.
As a result of that video, Disney suspended its deal with Kjellberg, a decision that the ADL and its CEO Jonathan Greenblatt supported. “PewdiePie is entitled to his brand of humor, but neither Disney nor any other company has any obligation to support his wide dissemination of hate speech,” Greenblatt said in a 2017 statement following the release of the video.
Kjellberg, meanwhile, apologized for the video in question, saying, “‘I was trying to show how crazy the modern world is, specifically some of the services available online … I think it’s important to say something and I want to make one thing clear: I am in no way supporting any kind of hateful attitudes.”
Following his initial announcement of the ADL donation on Wednesday, Kjellberg said in a statement posted to Twitter: “Making a donation to ADL doesn’t make sense to everyone, especially since they’ve outright spoken against me. I wanted to show publicly that I can move past it and move on.”
Kjellberg cited the Christchurch Mosque shooting in New Zealand this May in his video on Thursday. “I felt a responsibility to do something about it because it’s no longer just about me, it affected other people,” he said. “I struggled with how to do that, but this was not the right way to go about it.”
The shooter in that incident was heard saying “Subscribe to PewDiePie” while committing the murders on camera, a saying that had become popular as a meme through Kjellberg’s channel. The saying was not intended to be incendiary in its origins, but Kjellberg did issue a statement following the massacre earlier this year, saying, “I feel absolutely sickened having my name uttered by this person. My heart and thoughts go out to the victims, families and everyone affected by this tragedy.”
A request for comment from Kjellberg was not immediately returned.
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