Controversial Cannon

Television host Nick Cannon is the latest star to come under fire for anti-Semitic comments

Nick Cannon is out at ViacomCBS, but he’s still the host of The Masked Singer after a controversy erupted over anti-Semitic statements the actor made on his podcast, where he claimed that “Black people are the true Hebrews.”

Cannon’s anti-Semitic statements are merely just a few of many such statements made recently by athletes and actors. Here’s a brief rundown of what’s happened so far.


Richard Griffin, better known as Public Enemy’s “Minister of Information” Professor Griff, gives an interview to the British weekly magazine Melody Maker where he makes anti-Semitic and homophobic remarks, saying that “there’s no place for gays. When God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, it was for that sort of behavior” and “if the Palestinians took up arms, went into Israel and killed all the Jews, it’d be all right.”

May 22, 1989

Griffin gives an interview to The Washington Times, this one more explicit in its anti-Semitism, saying “Jews are responsible for the majority of the wickedness in the world.” A media firestorm erupts, and Griffin is no longer with Public Enemy by the end of the summer.

He later apologizes for his remarks after meeting with the National Holocaust Awareness Student Organization in 1990, and again in his 2009 memoir Analytixz, saying “To say the Jews are responsible for the majority of wickedness that went on around the globe, I would have to know about the majority of wickedness that went on around the globe, which is impossible…I’m not the best knower—God is. Then, not only knowing that, I would have to know who is at the crux of all of the problems in the world and then blame Jewish people, which is not correct.”

June 10, 2020

O’Shea Jackson, better known as NWA’s Ice Cube, posts a series of tweets that include anti-Semitic imagery and seemingly, references to QAnon, in which Jackson implies that Jews are responsible for all the chaos in the world. One of the images in the tweets features a racist caricature of Jewish men playing Monopoly while Black men hold up the board.

O’Shea Jackson aka Ice Cube

Jackson doubled down on his comments when he was accused of anti-Semitism: “What if I was just pro-Black? This is the truth brother. I didn’t lie on anyone. I didn’t say I was anti anybody. DONT BELIEVE THE HYPE. I’ve been telling my truth.” 

June 30, 2020

Actor, producer, comedian, podcaster and TV show host Nick Cannon interviews Griffin on his Cannon’s Class podcast. During the interview, Cannon says that Black people are “the true Hebrews,” endorses the ideas of noted anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan and falsely claims the Rothschild family controls the banking industry.

“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. We are the true Hebrews.”

July 6, 2020

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson shares an Instagram post which says “Hitler was right;” includes a falsely attributed Adolf Hitler quote (“because the white Jews knows [sic] that the Negroes are the real Children of Israel and to keep Americas [sic] secret the Jews will blackmail America. They will extort America, their plan for world domination won’t work if the Negroes know who they were…”); and includes several quotes from Farrakhan, which claim that Dr. Anthony Fauci and Bill Gates want to use a coronavirus vaccine to “depopulate the earth.”

Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson

He later deletes his posts and apologizes after meeting with local rabbis. He says he didn’t understand what the false Hitler quote was actually saying.

July 7, 2020

Former NBA player Stephen Jackson defends DeSean Jackson, saying that he is “speaking the truth,” and uses the Rothschild argument as proof. He later walks back his statements and apologizes after meeting with Los Angeles Rabbi David Wolpe.

July 10, 2020

The Eagles front office fines DeSean Jackson an undisclosed sum of money for his “absolutely appalling” posts and promises to “take appropriate action.” Jackson is still on the team.

July 14, 2020

ViacomCBS, the company Cannon has been with since his Nickelodeon days at All That, fires Cannon for his anti-Semitic statements. 

Former NBA player and current Veronica Mars scribe Kareem Abdul-Jabbar pens an editorial in the Hollywood Reporter that highlights recent comments made by the three Jacksons mentioned above, and wonders where the outrage is over anti-Semitism in sports and Hollywood. A key quote:

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar criticized what he called “apathy” about anti-Semitism in a Hollywood Reporter editorial.

“When reading the dark squishy entrails of popular culture, meh-rage in the face of sustained prejudice is an indisputable sign of the coming Apatholypse: apathy to all forms of social justice. After all, if it’s OK to discriminate against one group of people by hauling out cultural stereotypes without much pushback, it must be OK to do the same to others. Illogic begets illogic.”

July 15, 2020

Cannon apologizes to the Jewish community.

“While the Jewish experience encompasses more than 5,000 years and there is so much I have yet to learn, I have had at least a minor history lesson over the past few days and to say that it is eye-opening would be a vast understatement. I want to express my gratitude to the Rabbis, community leaders and institutions who reached out to me to help enlighten me, instead of chastising me. I want to assure my Jewish friends, new and old, that this is only the beginning of my education — I am committed to deeper connections, more profound learning and strengthening the bond between our two cultures today and every day going forward.”

He demands ViacomCBS hand over the rights to his long-running comedy series Wild ’N Out.

FOX announces it will keep Cannon as host of its lucrative show The Masked Singer.

Cannon issues a second apology on his Facebook and Twitter profiles, saying in part, “I extend my deepest and most sincere apologies to my Jewish sisters and brothers for the hurtful and divisive words that came out of my mouth during my interview with Richard Griffin.”

O’Shea Jackson responds to Abdul-Jabbar via a quote-tweet of CNN anchor Jake Tapper, saying “Shame on the Hollywood Reporter who obviously gave my brother Kareem 30 pieces of silver to cut us down without even a phone call.”

July 17, 2020

Cannon tweets about the controversy again, saying, “I hurt an entire community and it pained me to my core, I thought it couldn’t get any worse. Then I watched my own community turn on me and call me a sell-out for apologizing. Goodnight. Enjoy Earth” and “Y’all can have this planet. I’m out!”

Lionsgate and Debmar-Mercury announce that they will push back the debut date of Cannon’s planned eponymous daytime talk show to fall 2021.

“We want to continue the healing process as he meets with leaders of the Jewish community and engages in a dialogue with our distribution partners to hear their views,” the statement reads in part.”We are standing by Nick in our hope that by fall 2021 he will be able to use his extraordinary talent and platform to entertain, enlighten and unite his audience on the ‘Nick Cannon’ talk show. Lionsgate and Debmar-Mercury condemn anti-Semitism, racism and hate speech. It runs counter to everything we stand for.”

July 18, 2020

Andrew Wallenstein writes in an industry analysis column at Variety that while “the companies that are standing by Cannon are making a calculation that in the controversy-stuffed hyperspeed news cycle that is American culture, the missteps he just made that seem so appalling now will be a distant memory not too long in the future,” Cannon should put his money where his mouth is and  “leverage the platform his many showbiz connections afford him to truly demonstrate the evolution he claims to be making.”



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Jake Harris

Jake Harris is a Texas-based journalist whose writing about pop culture and entertainment has appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the Nashville Scene and more. You can find more of his writings at or through his pop culture newsletter, Jacob's Letter.

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