YouTube Star PewDiePie Is Dropped by Disney After Reports of Anti-Semitic Imagery



Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, the YouTube star known as PewDiePie, in London in 2015.

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Disney-owned Maker Studios said on Monday night that it had cut ties with one of YouTube’s most popular stars after a report that he had posted multiple videos featuring anti-Semitic imagery.

The announcement came after The Wall Street Journal reported that the star, Felix Kjellberg, a Swede better known by his YouTube alias PewDiePie, had posted nine such videos since August.

“Although Felix has created a following by being provocative and irreverent, he clearly went too far in this case and the resulting videos are inappropriate,’’ a spokeswoman said in a statement. “Maker Studios has made the decision to end our affiliation with him going forward.”

With 53 million subscribers, Mr. Kjellberg has amassed one of the largest audiences on YouTube by posting clips of himself playing and talking about video games accompanied by humorous commentary.

According to Social Blade, which compiles data on social media, PewDiePie is the most popular user on YouTube. His videos have attracted nearly 14.7 billion views.

In December, Forbes magazine estimated that Mr. Kjellberg had earned $15 million in the year that ended last June, thanks largely to his book, “This Book Loves You,” and his series on YouTube Red, Google’s paid subscription service, which offers ad-free viewing among other benefits.

One of the videos identified by The Journal featured a man dressed as Jesus Christ saying, “Hitler did absolutely nothing wrong.” In another, Mr. Kjellberg hired two men to make and display a sign that said “Death to All Jews,” according to The Journal.

PewDiePie removed those videos, along with a third, but not before they amassed about 23 million views, The Journal reported. All three were published last month.

Mr. Kjellberg addressed the criticism in a Sunday post on Tumblr, the popular blogging platform.

“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,” he said. He added: “Though this was not my intention, I understand that these jokes were ultimately offensive.”

Mr. Kjellberg did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment on Monday night.

The Walt Disney Company zealously defends its brand — it decided not to bid for Twitter last year in part because it was concerned with trolls on that social network — but this is not the first time that the entertainment conglomerate has had trouble from off-brand units. In 2010, for example, it sold the sometimes-racy Miramax Films.

In 2014, Disney paid $500 million for Maker Studios in a bid to expand its reach online. In the intervening years, however, Maker Studios has suffered from layoffs and retrenchments.

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