PewDiePie has frequently faced claims of supporting racist and anti-Semitic messages, which he has denied. Now, the YouTube star has stoked the internet’s ire once again after announcing, then canceling, a donation to the Anti-Defamation League.
PewDiePie, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, said he initially pledged to donate $50,000 to the nonprofit, whose primary mission is to “stop the defamation of the Jewish people, and to secure justice and fair treatment to all,” according to its website, to “put an end to these alt-right claims” against him.
He tweeted (then deleted) his decision on Wednesday. Then came backlash from his fans — hundreds took to social media to question if he had somehow been coerced.
Without referencing the ADL by name, the YouTuber said in a video posted Thursday he’d decided not to donate to the group and instead will select a charity he’s “actually passionate to donate to.”
“I made the mistake of picking a charity that I was advised instead of picking a charity that I’m personally passionate about, which is 100% my fault,” he said in the video shared Thursday.
He received the $50,000 through his sponsorship with shopping app Honey. But users questioned why he chose the nonprofit, which has criticized him for supporting anti-Semitic messaging in the past.
“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,” a spokesperson for the nonprofit said in a statement to CNN.
PewDiePie’s derogatory comments have earned him plenty of detractors. Disney cut ties with the star in 2017 after he paid two men to hold a sign that read, “Death to all Jews.” Later that year, he apologized for using a racial slur in a video. The gunman who killed 50 people in the Christchurch mosque shootings referenced the meme “Subscribe to PewDiePie” during a livestream of the killings, which the YouTuber later condemned. It was an attempt to “move on” from that incident that sparked the donation in the first place, he had said.
None of that has stymied his fan base. PewDiePie, who typically vlogs about video games and memes, recently celebrated reaching 100 million subscribers on YouTube, where he’s earned the second-highest number of subscribers of any creator.