Nick Cannon’s decades-long partnership with ViacomCBS has ended due to backlash over some comments deemed anti-Semitic that he made during a recent podcast. As Newsweek points out, Cannon has had a long relationship with the media conglomerate, which has included hosting shows on such ViacomCBS-owned properties as Nickelodeon and MTV.
It all began in an episode of his podcast “Cannon’s Class”, when he was joined by former Public Enemy rapper Richard “Professor Griff” Griffin, who was notoriously kicked out of the group in 1989 when he gave an interview to the Washington Post and declared that Jews were responsible “for the majority of wickedness that goes on across the globe.”
During their conversation, the two spoke about Nation of Islam leader Louis Farakhan, who has been called out by the Anti Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center for his history of anti-Semitic and occasionally homophobic rhetoric.
In one part of the video, Cannon tells Griffin that “every time I’ve heard [Farakhan] speak, it’s positive, it’s powerful, it’s uplifting,” while lamenting that Farrakhan has been “demonized.”
According to Cannon, it’s Black people who are actually Semitic, not Jews. “It’s never hate speech, you can’t be anti-Semitic when we are the Semitic people. When we are the same people who they want to be. That’s our birthright,” he sad, adding that Black people are “the true Hebrews.”
When backlash to the controversial interview exploded, Cannon issued a lengthy statement on Facebook.
“Anyone who knows me know that I have no hate in my heart nor malice intentions,” he wrote. “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 unit and understanding.”
Anyone who knows me knows that I have no hate in my heart nor malice intentions. I do not condone hate speech nor the…
Cannon subsequently clarified both his remarks and his statement in an interview with Fast Company.
“There’s no malice or negative intent, but in a time like 2020 we got to have these conversations. And if there’s an assumption that is perceived as ignorant, let’s debunk it right away,” he said.
“I can’t be responsible for however long Minister Farrakhan has been ministering and things that he said. That is his voice and his fight. I can only be held accountable for what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard,” he continued. “I just want to focus on the positive aspects. But I condemn any hate speech. I don’t care who said it. I don’t care if my dad said it. I don’t care if Farrakhan said it. If anyone is saying something hateful or demonic, I don’t support that at all.”
He also explained why the words “sorry” and “apologize” don’t appear anywhere within his statement. “To me apologies are empty. Are you forcing me to say the words ‘I’m sorry’? Are you making me bow down, ’cause then again, that would be perpetuating that same rhetoric that we’re trying to get away from,” Cannon said. “What we need is healing. What we need is discussion. Correct me. I don’t tell my children to say, ‘I’m sorry.’ I want them to understand where they need to be corrected. And then that’s how we grow.”
He added: “You can say sorry in as many different languages as you want to, and it means nothing,” Cannon continues. “But until someone truly understands where they may have been wrong or where they may have offended someone, then that’s where growth occurs.”
Hours after Cannon posted his statement, ViacomCBS posted a statement of its own, declaring it was ending its relationship with him.
“ViacomCBS condemns bigotry of any kind and we categorically denounce all forms of anti-Semitism,” the statement begins.
“We have spoken with Nick Cannon about an episode of his podcast “Cannon’s Class” on YouTube, which promoted hateful speech and spread anti-Semitic conspiracy theories,” the statement continues.” 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.”
The statement concludes: “We are committed to doing better in our response to incidents of anti-Semitism, racism, and bigotry. ViacomCBS will have further announcements on our efforts to combat hate of all kinds.”
Cannon also works for Fox as host of the network’s hit “The Masked Singer”. Newsweek has reached out to Fox for comment.