ViacomCBS has cut ties with “Wild ‘N Out” host Nick Cannon after a podcast episode which the company said “promoted hateful speech and spread anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.”
“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,” a spokesperson said in a statement late Tuesday.
Early Wednesday, Cannon responded to the firing in a lengthy Facebook post in which he demanded “full ownership” of “Wild ‘N Out” and an apology from ViacomCBS. Cannon also said that he reached out to Shari Redstone, who controls ViacomCBS through her National Amusements, Inc. company, “to have a conversation of reconciliation and actually apologize if I said anything that pained or hurt her or her community.”
He said he received “dead silence” in return. “That’s when I realized they don’t want a conversation or growth, they wanted to put the young negro in his place,” Cannon wrote.
“It is absolutely untrue that Nick Cannon reached out to the Chair of ViacomCBS,” a representative for ViacomCBS and a spokesperson for Redstone both said in statements on Wednesday. When asked if Cannon had attempted to reach Redstone through intermediaries, both the ViacomCBS rep and Redstone’s rep said, “Not to my knowledge.”
Cannon’s comments that led to his dismissal came in an episode last month of his podcast series “Cannon’s Class” in which he interviewed former Public Enemy member Richard “Professor Griff” Griffin — who himself was fired from the group for making anti-Semitic comments in a 1989 interview — and repeatedly referenced fringe conspiracy theories about Jewish people controlling banking as well as major media companies.
During the conversation, Griffin defended his past remarks that Jews were responsible for “the majority of wickedness that goes on across the globe,” saying, “I’m hated now because I told the truth.” Cannon replied, “You’re speaking facts. There’s no reason to be scared of anything when you’re speaking the truth.” Cannon also said Black people are the “true Hebrews” and praised Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has a long history of making anti-Semitic remarks.
In the interview and in follow-up statements, Cannon has repeatedly stressed that his comments were not intended to be hateful. “Anyone who knows me knows that I have no hate in my heart nor malice intentions,” he wrote in a Facebook post on Monday. “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.”
He later said in an interview with Fast Company that he would not apologize for the comments.
“To me apologies are empty … 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 said.
Here’s the full statement from ViacomCBS:
ViacomCBS condemns bigotry of any kind and we categorically denounce all forms of anti-Semitism.
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.
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.
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.
Tony Maglio contributed to this story.