A prominent rabbi who met with Nick Cannon says the television host and producer is “genuinely concerned about the hurt” he caused by making anti-Semitic remarks, and they intend to work together to reject hate.
Cannon apologized to the Jewish community this week for his “hurtful and divisive” words, a day after ViacomCBS cut ties with him for the comments made on a podcast where he discussed racial bias, and following a phone conversation with Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s associate dean.
Cooper asked him to post the apology on social media, and then met with him Thursday for a three-hour conversation at Cannon’s business headquarters in Burbank, California.
“He appears to be someone who’s genuine in his desire to make sure people understand his apology,” Cooper told The Associated Press.
“But also ... not to move forward saying, ‘OK, I have to go back to my regular things, thank you for helping to give me a lifeline after this terrible error.’ That wasn’t it. The thrust was: ’OK. Now, what do we do? How do we roll up our sleeves? What can we do together?'"
Cooper said that he’s confident that Cannon will use his wide-ranging social media presence to talk openly about mistakes, fight for social justice and reject messages of hate.
“It could have a very, very positive impact on young people” Cooper said.
Cooper said he will meet with Cannon again next week and show him historic documents preserved at the Wiesenthal museum including a 1919 letter by Adolf Hitler painting Jews as Germany's post-World War I enemies.
Cannon was fired as producer of the comedy improv series “Wild ’n Out” on VH1, the ViacomCBS-owned cable channel, over comments he made in an episode of the podcast “Cannon's Class.”
On the podcast, Cannon and Richard “Professor Griff” Griffin, formerly of the rap group Public Enemy, contended that Black people are the true Hebrews and Jews have usurped that identity.
Cannon then argued that lighter-skinned people — “Jewish people, white people, Europeans” — “are a little less” and have a “deficiency” that historically caused them to act out of fear and commit acts of violence to survive.
Jewish leaders including the Anti-Defamation League and prominent rabbis criticized the remarks.
Cooper said that that during his meeting with Cannon on Thursday, he brought up the “issue of supposed Jewish privilege.”
“Six million Jews weren’t white enough for the Nazis, so the notion of casting Jews in race and racist terms is something that is just not acceptable," he said. “”In fact, to me, it’s personally enraging.”
Apologizing in a series of posts on Twitter, Cannon said his words “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.”
Cannon said the apology came after discussions with Jewish leaders. He thanked Cooper and assured the Jewish community that it was just the beginning of his education.
“I am committed to deeper connections, more profound learning and strengthening the bond between our two cultures today and every day going forward,” he said.
Requests for an interview or further comment through Cannon's communications team were not immediately granted.
Cannon is also host of Fox's “The Masked Singer” and the former host of NBC's “America's Got Talent.”