Russell Simmons has apologized and pulled from his YouTube channel a video in which Harriet Tubman makes a sex tape with a slaveowner in order to blackmail him.
Simmons tweeted a link to the video Wednesday, calling it the "funniest thing I've seen." Many on Twitter were appalled, and soon "Harriet Tubman" was a trending topic.
Within hours, Simmons said he agreed at the request of friends in the NAACP to remove the video from his All Def Digital channel, and to apologize.
"In the whole history of Def Comedy Jam, I’ve never taken down a controversial comedian,” he wrote on GlobalGrind. “When my buddies from the NAACP called and asked me to take down the Harriet Tubman video from the All Def Digital YouTube channel and apologize, I agreed.
“I’m a very liberal person with thick skin and it’s hard to offend me. My first impression of the Harriet Tubman piece was that it was about what one of actors said in the video, that 162 years later, there’s still tremendous injustice. And with Harriet Tubman outwitting the slave master? I thought it was politically correct. Silly me. I have taken down the video. Lastly, I would never condone violence against women in any form, and for all those I offended, I am extremely sorry."
In the video, Tubman gets a fellow slave to record her from the closet while she and the man she calls "massa" have aggressive sex. Then she tells the slaveholder that the tape gives her "leverage."
At the end, she is heard saying, "Get to work on that railroad, white n—-," suggesting that she forced him to build the Underground Railroad. The real railroad was a secret network Tubman used to lead hundreds to freedom.
The video inspired a Change.org petition that drew more than 700 signatures before Simmons' decision. "Rape is not a joke, nor is the sexual violation of African American women by enslavers a punchline," said the petition.
Jamil Smith, a segment producer for MSNBC's "Melissa Harris-Perry," tried to make the best of the situation.
"If Harriet Tubman's name is going to be all over Twitter, I'm glad to see many using it as a teaching moment," he tweeted, along with a link to a Tubman biography.