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Disney severs ties with YouTube star PewDiePie after anti-Semitic posts

Millions of people have watched a Jan. 11 video by YouTube’s biggest star that included two men laughing as they held a banner that read, “Death to all Jews.”

The man behind the video is Felix Kjellberg, a 27-year-old Swede known as “PewDiePie,” who has amassed 53 million subscribers. His success has brought him multimillion-dollar deals from YouTube and Walt Disney Co., which owns a firm that runs Kjellberg’s business.

Since August, PewDiePie has posted nine videos that include anti-Semitic jokes or Nazi imagery, according to a review of his channel by The Wall Street Journal.

On Monday after the Journal contacted Disney about the videos, the entertainment giant said it was severing ties with Kjellberg, who as PewDiePie rose to prominence via clips of himself playing videogames or performing skits and making crude jokes. Under the terms of their arrangement, Kjellberg had editorial independence.

“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,” said a spokeswoman for Maker Studios, the Disney division that was business partners with PewDiePie.

PewDiePie’s account also took down three videos with a total of about 23 million views—the Jan. 11 video, and ones from Jan. 17 and Jan. 22—after the Journal’s inquiries. In the Jan. 22 video, Kjellberg showed a man dressed as Jesus Christ saying, “Hitler did absolutely nothing wrong.”

Kjellberg said in a video a few days later that the Jan. 11 clip was a joke that went too far. Alphabet Inc.’s Google, which owns YouTube, pulled ads that run on its videos from the Jan. 11 video within days of its posting, before it was taken down this past weekend. YouTube hasn’t pulled any of the nine videos in question, though PewDiePie’s account took down three of them. Google hasn’t removed ads from any of Kjellberg’s other videos.

Kjellberg didn’t respond to requests for comment for this article. On Sunday, he wrote on Tumblr that he wanted to “clear some things up,” specifically that he doesn’t support “any kind of hateful attitudes."

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