ViacomCBS cuts ties with Nick Cannon after anti-Semitic comments

On his podcast, Cannon said Black people are the "true Hebrews" and talked about anti-Semitic conspiracy theories involving the Rothschild family.

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By Elisha Fieldstadt

ViacomCBS has cut ties with television personality Nick Cannon after he made anti-Semitic comments on his podcast.

During the episode, which was recorded last year but aired on June 30, Cannon interviewed Richard “Professor Griff” Griffin, the rapper who was a part of Public Enemy before leaving the group after making anti-Semitic remarks in the late 80s. He later expressed remorse for making the comments.

On the podcast, Cannon said Black people are the "true Hebrews" and talked about anti-Semitic conspiracy theories involving the Rothschild family.

"It's never hate speech, you can't be anti-Semitic when we are the Semitic people," Cannon said. "When we are the same people who they want to be. That's our birthright. We are the true Hebrews."

Cannon then segued into a discussion on skin color — “And I’m going to say this carefully,” he said — to allege that people who lack sufficient melanin are “a little less.”

Those without dark skin have a “deficiency” that historically forced them to act out of fear and commit acts of violence to survive, he said.

“They had to be savages,” Cannon said, adding that he was referring to “Jewish people, white people, Europeans,” among others.

Nick Cannon hosts the Return of the Masks: Group D episode of The Masked Singer on Oct. 9.FOX via Getty Images

In statement released to NBC News by a ViacomCBS spokesperson, the company said it had severed its longstanding relationship with Cannon.

"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," the statement said.

“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," the company spokesperson said. "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.”

Cannon first took to Facebook and Twitter on Monday to defend himself.

"Anyone who knows me knows that I have no hate in my heart nor malice intentions. 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 began.

"I encourage more healthy dialogue and welcome any experts, clergy, or spokespersons to any of my platforms to hold me accountable and correct me in any statement that I’ve made that has been projected as negative," he added. "Until then, I hold myself accountable for this moment and take full responsibility because My intentions are only to show that as a beautiful human species we have way more commonalities than differences, So let’s embrace those as well as each other. We All Family!"

Since then, Cannon has been retweeting messages of support from fans, including calls to boycott ViacomCBS. The companies holdings include CBS Entertainment Group, MTV, Nickelodeon, BET, Comedy Central and Showtime.

On Wednesday, Cannon wrote in a statement that he was disappointed by Viacom's decision, calling it "unwise."

"I am deeply saddened in a moment so close to reconciliation that the powers that be, misused an important moment for us to all grow closer together and learn more about one another. Instead the moment was stolen and highjacked to make an example of an outspoken black man," he wrote.

He outlined his long and accomplished history with the company and highlighted "one of my other greatest creative accomplishments; their longest running comedy series and the most successful Hip Hop programming in Television History 'Wild 'N Out.'" He demanded full ownership of the show.

He said "the best blessing in all of this hurtful attack is the outpouring of love and support from the Jewish community. It has been amazing."

"I must apologize to my Jewish Brothers and Sisters for putting them in such a painful position, which was never my intention, but I know this whole situation has hurt many people and together we will make it right," Cannon wrote.

Cannon has had a relationship with Viacom since he was an actor on Nickelodeon in the '90s. He produced “Wild ’N Out,” a comedy improv series that has been airing on MTV and VH1 since 2005.

He has also been a regular part of TV shows unconnected to ViacomCBS. He hosts Fox's “The Masked Singer" and hosted NBC's “America's Got Talent” until 2016.

A spokesperson for NBCUniversal said the company did not have a comment. NBCUniversal is the parent company of NBC News.

A Fox statement said the company would not be severing ties with Cannon.

“When we were made aware of Nick Cannon’s interview with Richard Griffin on YouTube, we immediately began a dialogue with Nick. He is clear and remorseful that his words were wrong and lacked both understanding and context, and inadvertently promoted hate. This was important for us to observe," the statement said. "Nick has sincerely apologized, and quickly taken steps to educate himself and make amends. On that basis and given a belief that this moment calls for dialogue, we will move forward with Nick and help him advance this important conversation, broadly."

Variety and Associated Press contributed.