YouTube’s highest paid vlogger has been dropped by Disney over allegations that he posted antisemitic messages.
Felix Kjellberg, who became famous for making irreverent video blogs, was found to have released questionable clips, including one where he paid two Indian men through a crowdsourcing website to hold up a sign which read: “Death to all Jews.”
Known by his YouTube name PewDiePie, Mr Kjellberg, 27, from Sweden, is said to have made £12 million last year through the video platform.
He was snapped up by Disney and made a deal with its Maker Studios for co-ownership of Revelmode, a network of YouTube channels that also produces mobile apps and merchandise.
An investigation by The Wall Street Journal found that over the last six months, nine videos have been posted with antisemitic jokes or Nazi imagery.
A video posted last month featured a man dressed as Jesus saying: “Hitler did absolutely nothing wrong.” Previous videos have also shown swastikas drawn by a fan, and have included Mr Kjellberg doing a Hitler salute.
A spokeswoman for Maker 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. Maker Studios has made the decision to end our affiliation with him going forward.”
Mr Kjellberg said his video of the two men holding up the “death to all Jews” sign was an attempt to “show how crazy the modern world is, specifically some of the services available online”.
He wrote a blog post on Sunday in which he attempted to explain his position. He said he used the freelance marketplace Fiverr to hire two men in India to make the offensive sign.
“I think it’s important to say something and I want to make one thing clear: I am in no way supporting any kind of hateful attitudes,” he said. “Though this was not my intention, I understand that these jokes were ultimately offensive.
“As laughable as it is to believe that I might actually endorse these people, to anyone unsure on my standpoint regarding hate-based groups: no, I don’t support these people in any way.”
Last, year, Mr Kjellberg’s PewDiePie Twitter account was temporarily suspended after he made jokes about Islamic State.
The neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer has previously praised PewDiePie as “our guy”.