Dawson joined YouTube in 2008 and became one of its first — and most popular — stars, racking up billions of views. His controversial comedy style, which he has likened to that of shock jocks, has prompted numerous mea culpas over the years. None, though, were quite as thorough as last week’s.
Dawson began his video, which has been viewed more than 8 million times as of Sunday afternoon, by apologizing for his repeated use of blackface throughout the years.
[Note: The video below contains explicit language.]
“Blackface was something that I did a lot. … And there’s no excuse for it. There’s literally no excuse. I made a video six years ago talking about it, and I gave excuses, and it was wrong,” Dawson said. “But I didn’t do the work. I didn’t actually look into the history of it and why it’s so wrong and why people were so upset.”
He also apologized for jokes he made about pedophilia: “I would never talk about a child in any way that was inappropriate. That is disgusting. That is gross. It is not something I would ever do. It’s something I did for shock value or because I thought it was funny.”
He also attempted to atone for a number of other offensive comments, such as when he appeared on a podcast and openly discussed “figuratively murdering someone.” He admitted that he was discussing a specific “white woman … who was trying to explain to me why what I was making on the Internet was hurting people.”
“I’m so sorry that I was just so thoughtless about the things I was posting for so many years. I don’t know. I just wasn’t thinking. I thought, ‘Oh, I’m in a weird category where I can say whatever I want.’ And I did. And now it’s the biggest regret in my life,” he concluded. “I don’t have hate in my heart for anyone, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that I made jokes about everyone.”
Though he said he wanted “to own up to everything I’ve done on the Internet that has hurt people,” some feel Dawson still has more to answer for. After he posted “Taking Accountability,” a clip resurfaced online in which he pretends to masturbate while looking at a poster of an 11-year-old Willow Smith while yelling, “Oh, whip your hair back,” a reference to her hit song.
“To Shane Dawson … I’m done with the excuses,” tweeted actress Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow’s mother, on Saturday.
“SHANE DAWSON I AM DISGUSTED BY YOU. YOU SEXUALIZING AN 11 YEAR OLD GIRL WHO HAPPENS TO BE MY SISTER!!!!!! IS THE FURTHEST THING FROM FUNNY AND NOT OKAY IN THE SLIGHTEST BIT,” tweeted her brother Jaden.
Dawson did not address this specific issue in his apology and has not publicly responded to the Smiths.
Dawson said he was “inspired” to make amends after watching a video posted by fellow YouTuber Jenna Marbles, calling it a “sign from the universe.”
Marbles, whose real name is Jenna Mourey, posted a video Thursday in which she apologized to her 20.3 million subscribers for her past offensive content — including wearing blackface in a video in which she was impersonating rapper Nicki Minaj and creating a rap song about Asians.
“I feel like we’re at a time where we are purging ourselves of anything and everything toxic,” Marbles said. “It was not my intention to do blackface. ... I do want to tell you how unbelievably sorry I am if I ever offended you by posting this video or by doing this impression and that that was never my intention. It’s not okay. It’s shameful. It’s awful. I wish it wasn’t part of my past.”
She also announced that she’s taking a hiatus from the platform.
“I’m literally just here to have a good time, and I don’t think I’m having a good time. And it seems like some other people aren’t having a good time. So for now, I just can’t exist on this channel,” Marbles said. “I don’t know how long it’s going to be. I just want to make sure the things I’m putting in the world aren’t hurting anyone … so I need to be done with this channel, for now or for forever.”
Dawson made no such promise in his own video, posted a day later, though he repeatedly stated throughout that he understands if his career is now over.