WARNING: This post contains explicit language.
Nick Cannon’s “hateful speech” and anti-Semitic theories led ViacomCBS to cut ties with the TV host and producer, the media giant said.
“ViacomCBS condemns bigotry of any kind and we categorically denounce all forms of anti-Semitism,” the company said in a statement Tuesday. It is terminating its relationship with Cannon, ViacomCBS said.
ViacomCBS’s decision was in response to remarks made by Cannon on a podcast in which he and Richard “Professor Griff” Griffith, the former Public Enemy member, discussed racial bias. The podcast reportedly was recorded last year and aired two weeks ago.
Griffith was fired from Public Enemy for making anti-Semitic remarks in a 1989 interview with the Washington Post.
“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,” ViacomCBS added.
“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 company said.
“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,” ViacomCBS said.
Cannon produced Wild ‘n Out, a comedy improv series for VH1, a ViacomCBS-owned cable channel. He’s been a regular part of TV shows unconnected to the company, including as the former host of NBC’s America’s Got Talent and host of Fox’s The Masked Singer.
During Cannon and Griffith’s conversation, the pair discussed the term anti-Semitic, and claimed it could not be used against Black people because “the Semitic people and language have nothing to do with white people.”
In Cannon’s hour-plus podcast, he and Griffin contend that Black people are the true Hebrews and that Jews have usurped their identity.
“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,” Cannon said, adding “we are the true Hebrews.”
Cannon then segues into a discussion of skin colour. “And I’m going to say this carefully,” he began, while alleging that people who lack sufficient melanin are “a little less.”
Those without dark skin have a “deficiency” that historically forced them to act out of fear and commit acts of violence to survive, he said.
“They had to be savages,” Cannon said, adding that he was referring to “Jewish people, white people, Europeans,” among others.
During their conversation, Cannon and Griffith also praised Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader, who is frequently criticized for his anti-Semitic.
“Every time I’ve heard him speak, it’s positive, it’s powerful, it’s uplifting,” Cannon said of Farrakhan, before claiming that he had been “demonized.”
After receiving backlash online for his comments, Cannon released a statement on Facebook, saying that anyone who knows him “knows that 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,” Cannon wrote. “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.”
Cannon continued, “When you look at The Media, and other sectors in our nation’s history, African Americans and the people of the Jewish community have partnered to create some of the best, most revolutionary work we know today.”
He said that he is an advocate for “people’s voices to be heard openly, fairly and candidly.”
“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,” he continued in the statement.
“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.”
“So let’s embrace those as well as each other. We All Family!” Cannon’s Facebook post concluded.
Later on Monday, Cannon told Fast Company that “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 to the outlet. “What we need is healing. What we need is discussion. Correct me…until someone truly understands where they may have been wrong or where they may have offended someone, then that’s where growth occurs.”
“My podcast is specifically an academic podcast to have tough and difficult conversations based off of text. And if we read something and something’s not accurate, let’s do away with it,” Cannon continued. “I can’t wait to sit down with some people that can help educate me and help further this conversation. I want to be corrected.”
He went on to condemn hate speech and addressed his comments about Farrakhan, saying, ““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 said. “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.”
After ViacomCBS announced their decision to sever ties with Cannon, he posted another statement to Facebook titled “Truth and Reconciliation.”
“I am deeply saddened in a moment so close to reconciliation that the powers that be, misused an important moment for us to all grow closer together and learn more about one another,” he began. “Instead the moment was stolen and hijacked to make an example of an outspoken Black man.”
Cannon said he will not “be bullied, silences, or continuously oppressed by any organization, group or corporation.”
“I am disappointed that Viacom does not understand or respect the power of the Black community. I was a member of the Viacom “Family” for over 20 years. Since I was a minor, we worked together to make great positive entertainment and I was handed many opportunities that I am grateful for.”
He said that when he was 17 years old he was “deemed the youngest staff writer in TV history on their various Nickelodeon series” and in 2009 he became “the youngest television Chairman in history, placing the teen division of Viacom solely in my hands as an executive.”
“My time at Viacom also birthed one of my other greatest creative accomplishments; their longest-running comedy series and the most successful Hip Hop programming in Television History Wild ‘N Out. An idea in which I self-financed out my own pocket and presented to MTV. I created a billion-dollar brand that expanded across a multi-tiered empire that is still Viacom’s biggest digital brand, touring business, talent discovery and incubation system and successful restaurant franchise.”
He continued, “For Viacom to be so deceptive is no surprise; they have been mistreating and robbing our community for years, underpaying talent on their biggest brands like Love & Hip Hop, all of BET programming and of course, Wild ‘N Out.”
He said that he doesn’t have to “defend” himself because “the proof is in the history.”
“They wanted to show me who is boss, hang me out to dry and make an example of anyone who says something they don’t agree with. But like the great Shirley Chisholm, ‘I am unbossed and unbought and unbothered.'”
“I believed that the corporation was becoming more progressive and willing to create helpful spaces and dialogue in these difficult and uncertain times of 2020. Instead, they chose to recently ban all advertisement that supported George Floyd and Breonna Taylor who we are all still seeking justice for. I also went as far to reach out to Ms. Shari Redstone, the owner of Viacom, to have a conversation of reconciliation and actually apologize if I said anything that pained or hurt her or her community. Dead Silence!” (Global News has not been able to verify Cannon’s statements for accuracy.)
He said that that’s when he realized “they don’t want a conversation or growth, they wanted to put the young negro in his place.”
“I respectfully stepped away from oppressive corporations in the past. NBC threatened and mistreated me for years, but I was the bigger person and abandoned an 8-figure salary on their number one hit show Americas Got Talent and currently stand by my friend and Queen Gabrielle Union in her fight against oppression,” Cannon said. “I took my talents and executive creativity to my open-minded and willing partners at the Fox Television network to create the current #1 hit show on television The Masked Singer in which I host and executive produce.”
Cannon continued, “My hope and original goal was to use this moment to show healing and acceptance and prayed that Viacom would use their powers for good. Instead I am now receiving death threats, hate messages calling me an ungrateful N—er and beyond. Viacom’s goal to keep me from providing for my family and lineage will be foiled. They can try to kick me while I’m down or force me to kiss the master’s feet in public for shame and ridicule, but instead I stand firm on my square with my fist in the air repeating my mantra, ‘You can’t fire a Boss!'”
Cannon went on to say that in a “pleasant turn of events” he is receiving an “outpouring of love and support from the Jewish community.”
“I have spoken with many Rabbis, clergy, Professors and coworkers who offer their sincere help. I must apologize to my Jewish Brothers and Sisters for putting them in such a painful position, which was never my intention, but I know this whole situation has hurt many people and together we will make it right. I have dedicated my daily efforts to continuing conversations to bring the Jewish Community and the African American community closer together, embracing our differences and sharing our commonalities.”
Cannon said that Viacom is “now on the wrong side of history” and he will “continue to pray” for them.
“I don’t blame any individual, I blame the oppressive and racist infrastructure. Systemic racism is what this world was built on and was the subject in which I was attempting to highlight in the recent clips that have been circulating from my podcast. If I have furthered the hate speech, I wholeheartedly apologize.”
Cannon concluded by demanding “full ownership of my billion-dollar Wild ‘N Out brand that I created, and they will continue to misuse and destroy without my leadership!”
“I demand that the hate and back door bullying cease and while we are at it, now that the truth is out, I demand the Apology!” Cannon concluded.
—With files from The Associated Press