After Nick Cannon was fired by ViacomCBS, the media personality wrote a lengthy response to the company accusing them of silencing him and “robbing” Black communities. ViacomCBS terminated their relationship with Cannon after he was slammed for comments deemed anti-Semitic on an episode of his podcast. Although he apologized in his original post to his “Jewish Brothers and Sisters for putting them in such a painful position,” Cannon is now making it unequivocally clear that he’s sorry for the hurt he’s caused. He says after talking with Rabbi Abraham Cooper, he’s gained a better understanding of his harm, and Cooper is co-signing the conversation they had on the phone.
“I think he’s finally owning up to what he did,” Cooper told Jewish Insider, explaining that before they spoke, he sent Cannon a list of hateful remarks that Louis Farrakhan has made over the years. “If you want to talk, I’d like to make sure you read that first,” Cooper said he explained to Cannon.
The rabbi said that Cannon contacted the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and the two talked on the phone, but they’re slated to meet in person as well. “If someone is interested in talking and moving forward and doing things together, the first thing that has to happen is there has to be an apology,” Cooper said, adding that he gave Cannon “a little lesson in Judaism 101. Which is, I think one of the greatest gifts that we gave to the world is the notion that a person can change and you can repent and you do so by owning up to what you did.”
Cannon did just this in his official apology he posted to his social media platforms by Thursday afternoon.
“First and foremost I extend my deepest and most sincere apologies to my Jewish sisters and brothers for the hurtful and divisive words that came out of my mouth during my interview with Richard Griffin,” Cannon wrote on platforms like Instagram and Twitter. “They reinforced the worst stereotypes of a proud and magnificent people and I feel ashamed of the uninformed and naïve place that these words came from. The video of this interview has since been removed.”
According to Federal News Network, Cannon made his comments that were deemed anti-Semitic on an hour-plus episode of his YouTube podcast “Cannon’s Class” last month. He was having a discussion with Richard “Professor Griff” Griffin, who used to be apart of the rap group Public Enemy, and the two asserted that Black people are the true Hebrews and Jews have usurped this identity.
Cannon then went on to say that lighter-skinned people — “Jewish people, white people, Europeans” — “are a little less” and have a “deficiency” that historically prompted them to act out of fear and commit acts of violence to survive. “They had to be savages,” Cannon said.
When the clip resurfaced, Cannon received immediate backlash from the Jewish community and certain activists.
“When I first heard about the comments Mr. Cannon made, it was very, very disappointing,” explained Oren Segal, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. “We’re in a time where hatred of all kinds is very much apparent. It’s in the news every day.”
“Anti-Semitism in particular over the past several years has been something that we’ve seen in increase , as well as racism and other issues,” Segal continued. “So when you hear an individual who has a public profile, who has influence over people, make statements that are highly offensive to the Jewish community, the first reaction is disappointment.”
Rabbi Cooper added in his talk with Jewish Insider that the perception of Jewish people has to change within the Black community.
“Whatever changes are going to take place, are not going to be dictated by a rabbi, or any Jew for that matter,” Cooper said when talking about his conversation with Cannon. “I also emphasized that Judaism is not a race, we’re a people, of all kinds of colors. And the idea of reducing everything through the lens of race is a bad thing.”
Bruce D. Haynes, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Davis, also added more context. He’s been studying Black Jews for more than two decades and he agreed that Cannon’s remarks echo the ideas of extreme Black Hebrew Israelites and of Minister Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader who referenced “Satanic Jews” in a speech last year.
“The danger is that those groups get confused with other self-identified Israelites like (Rabbi) Capers Funnye, who has a congregation in Chicago, and who is very much involved with the Ashkenazim Jewish community,” explained Haynes. “So I want to make clear that the term ‘Israelites’ is a tricky term.”
“Is it anti-Semitic to say Black people are the real Israelites or the real Jews? I’m not sure I’d call it anti-Semitism,” Haynes continued. “It’s not a good reading of history, but I wouldn’t call it anti-Semitism. On the other hand, some of those groups that call Jews impostors certainly cross the line.”
Cannon acknowledged in his apology, “While the Jewish experience encompasses more than 5,000 years and there is so much I have yet to learn, I have had at least a minor history lesson over the past few days and to say that it is eye-opening would be a vast understatement.”
He ended by saying, “I want to express my gratitude to the Rabbis, community leaders and institutions who reached out to me to help enlighten me, instead of chastising me. I want to assure my Jewish friends, new and old, that this is only the beginning of my education — I am committed to deeper connections, more profound learning and strengthening the bond between our two cultures today and every day going forward.”