Karwai Tang/WireImage PewDiePie
YouTube personality and Swedish gamer PewDiePie has apologized after facing backlash for appearing to mock a TikTok creator who is deaf in a recent video.
On Tuesday, the 32-year-old — who has 111 million YouTube subscribers and whose behavior has caused a number of controversies over the years — posted a video on his channel titled “My Dog Cringes at TikToks,” in which he shared his reaction to a number of videos he found “cringe.”
The social media star, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, included a clip from one of Scarlet May’s recent videos, although the footage has since been deleted from the YouTuber’s post. May, who has 6.2 million on TikTok, utilizes both English and American Sign Language in her videos.
In the since-deleted portion of the YouTube video, PewDiePie shared a “story time” video May posted on July 18, in which she recounted an experience she had at a drive-thru while sporting one of her trademark manicures, according to NBC News.
“I’m not listening to this,” PewDiePie said after starting to watch the video, the outlet reported.
According to NBC News, he then commented on her nails, saying to his dog, “Look, she has your crazy nails, Maya,” before appearing to imitate sign language in the video. “Sorry, are my nails distracting you guys?” he said.
In a pinned comment on his YouTube video, PewDiePie apologized, saying he “had no clue she was deaf, but kinda dumb of me to not realize.”
“Still watching through the clip I only poked fun of her long nails,” he continued, adding that “making my dog’s paws move was poking at people always dancing or doing some move on tiktok, which is an ongoing theme in the whole video).”
“Anyway honest mistake, my bad,” he wrote, noting that he had edited out the clip of May.
A number of YouTube viewers were quick to call the YouTuber out, sharing their criticism in the comments section of the post.
“Woman with the nails wasn’t trying to be extra, she was signing because she is literally deaf,” one person wrote, while another added, “So a deaf person signing is considered ‘tiktok cringe’ now.. Wtf.”
“Making fun of the deaf community isn’t a joke… you let us down with that one pewds,” another social media user wrote, according to NBC News.
Other commenters came to the YouTuber’s defense, writing that they believed he was unaware she was deaf and was just making fun of her nails, sentiments which he himself shared in his own apology.
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May went on to acknowledge PewDiePie’s video on TikTok.
“Okay everyone has been blowing my phone up about this so let’s talk about it,” she said in a video posted on Wednesday. “I feel like it was very weird, very unnecessary but at the same time I’m not surprised. I’m used to it.”
May shared that “using nails while signing” has “been a big issue in the deaf community,” and is something she’s actively “trying to normalize.”
“But then a big creator comes on here and puts us a million steps back, so it’s very frustrating,” she added.
“Maybe he didn’t know I was doing sign language. Maybe he didn’t like my long nails. That’s okay. A lot of people don’t like my nails. That’s fine, they’re not for you,” she continued.
May went on to note that if he really was unaware of the situation, she felt like he needed to “admit the mistake.”
“You don’t just get to mock deaf people who’ve already been struggling for years with people like you and go about your day like nothing happened,” she added, ultimately ending the post by saying, “We all live and learn. If he did not know before he definitely knows now.”
In a comment posted shortly after her video, May acknowledged that PewDiePie eventually did completely take her out of the video.
“Good way to own up to things 😅👍🏽,” she wrote alongside the post, which she captioned, “we all make mistakes hopefully he learns from this.”
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