Nick Cannon, Tough Conversations and the Power of an Apology

by Danita White

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (and with the ever-changing COVID-19 landscape, I don’t blame you), you’ve no doubt heard about Nick Cannon and how ViacomCBS terminated their relationship with him following anti-Semitic comments that he made last year but were just recently made public.

How it all started

The comments were made on an episode of his podcast, Cannon’s Class, on which rapper Professor Griff was a guest. The episode has since been deleted from all major online platforms. But according to Charu Sinha of Vulture, Cannon: “asserted the truth of a number of conspiracy theories in the episode, referencing ‘the Rothschilds, centralized banking, the 13 families, the bloodlines that control everything even outside of America’.” Some may recall that Professor Griff left hip hop group Public Enemy in 1989 after making similar anti-Semitic comments. But in the podcast episode with him, Cannon insisted that their conversation was not hateful, because “Semitic people are Black people. You can’t be anti-Semitic when we are the Semitic people.” Cannon also expressed admiration for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

Once his comments started circulating and backlash ensued, Cannon addressed the controversy in a Facebook post but refused to apologize. “To me apologies are empty,” he said. “Are you forcing me to say the words ‘I’m sorry’? Are you making me bow down, ’cause then again, that would be perpetuating that same rhetoric that we’re trying to get away from.”

ViacomCBS then announced the termination of their longstanding relationship with Cannon in which the star appeared on Nickelodeon, MTV, and VH1 and made shows like Wild ‘N Out and Lip Sync Battle Shorties popular. 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.

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.

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.

“I’m sorry” can go a long way

We don’t know all the details behind ViacomCBS’ termination of Nick Cannon, but it does appear that Cannon’s initial refusal to apologize for his comments played a major role.

Racial tensions seem to be at an all time high these days; as a result, it is all the more important that we seek love and not tear down. Yes, we can have tough conversations, but that needs to happen while also understanding the feelings of others. If they are offended, then we must respect that regardless of our personal beliefs and opinions.

Compassion, empathy, and understanding comes from humility and we can learn from Nick Cannon’s firing. There are many celebrities who apologized for their comments once they realized they offended others.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees apologized for his comments on “disrespecting the flag,” saying he “completely missed the mark” on current issues in the United States and that it “breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused.”

On behalf of the NFL, Roger Goodell admitted they were “wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest”.

Kevin Hart has repeatedly apologized for past homophobic tweets and jokes.

Academy Award winning actress Halle Berry apologized and stepped away from playing a transgender role after she received backlash on social media.

Power 77 Radio Founder Ahmad Rashad believes these are examples of people of influence who understand the offense that their words caused others even though that wasn’t their intention. “Does it mean their beliefs changed, no,” says Rashad. “But just an attempt to understand the other side is what’s needed as we continue to progress in our diverse society. This is not to approve or condone Nick Cannon’s statements, however being aware of someone’s offense and not taking appropriate actions will never allow a conversation to continue towards love. It will instead separate us and create hate, whether intentional or unintentional.”

Cannon has since apologized for his comments and made efforts to reach out and reconcile with the Jewish community. Cannon had a nearly two hour-long meeting with Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. Their discussion has been uploaded to YouTube as two video episodes of his Cannon’s Class podcast. You can read about their discussion here.

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