YouTube’s Biggest Star, PewDiePie, Has Been Dropped by Disney’s Maker Studios Over Anti-Semitism

Recent clips tried to make light of the Holocaust

More than 53 million YouTube users subscribe to Kjellberg's content. YouTube
Headshot of Christopher Heine

Disney-owned Maker Studios has parted ways with YouTube star Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg after it was revealed that he had posted nine videos with anti-Semitic messages, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday evening.

As YouTube’s most-watched star, Kjellberg had accrued 14.7 billion views and attracted 53 million subscribers to his video channel. His channel has been part of YouTube’s Google Preferred program, which lets brands buy ads against only the buzziest of content on the platform.

As of 11 p.m. ET Monday, PewDiePie’s account had not been removed from the three-year-old Google Preferred program.

UPDATE: Early Tuesday morning, a YouTube spokesperson emailed Adweek, stating the company is “removing the PewDiePie channel from Google Preferred.” In addition, YouTube has cancelled the second season of Scare PewDiePie, an original web series which stars Kjellberg.

Per the Journal report, Kjellberg—known for his brash sense of humor—posted videos that contained anti-Semitic messages and dubious attempts at humor. One clip included a man dressed as Jesus, saying, “Hitler did absolutely nothing wrong,” while another featured two men paid by Kjellberg to hold a sign that said, “Death to all Jews.”

Three of Kjellberg’s recent videos with anti-Semitic language were collectively viewed 23 million times, the Journal reported.

While it probably stands to reason that brands bought premium ads that appeared around some of the content, Google pulled ads from one of his videos on Jan. 11, the Journal said.

On Feb. 12, Kjellberg posted on Tumblr he wanted to “clear some things up,” stating that that he doesn’t support hateful expression. He said his material is designed for entertainment rather than politics, and he understood that “these jokes were ultimately offensive.”

At that point, Kjellberg’s comments apparently didn’t matter to Maker Studios, which the next day issued the following statement to the Journal: “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. Maker Studios has made the decision to end our affiliation with him going forward.”

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.