Disney has severed its commercial links to a Swedish YouTube star with 53 million subscribers after he paid Indians to hold up banners reading ‘Death to Jews’.
PewDiePie, the online name of Felix Kjellberg, 27, said the stunt was to “show how crazy the modern world is,” and how people “would say anything for five dollars,” but Disney bosses took a different view.
Another video, posted 11 days later, on 22 January, showed a man dressed as Jesus saying: “Hitler did absolutely nothing wrong.”
In other videos, Kjellberg reportedly shows a swastika drawn by a fan, plays the Nazi Party anthem and performs a ‘Heil Hitler’ salute, leading the media giant to decide enough was enough.
The Swede is the world’s highest-paid YouTube star, grossing $14 million per year in advertising, sponsorship and appearance fees, but his joint venture with Disney’s Maker Studios, signed in 2014, was seen as a key source of income.
A spokeswoman for studios said: “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.”
In a blog statement, Kjellberg said: “I am in no way supporting any kind of hateful attitudes… I think of the content that I create as entertainment, not a place for serious political commentary. I know my audience understand that and that is why they come to my channel. Though this was not my intention, I understand that these jokes were ultimately offensive.”