Def Jam founder Russell Simmons has become something of a PR/media man extraordinaire, what with his digital marketing “don’t call us an agency” company and his newly-launched YouTube channel All Def Digital. Seems like his team could sell water to a well, no?
Unfortunately, this week he chose what might have been the worst possible way to roll out his latest product: with a poorly planned satirical clip titled “ADD History: Harriett Tubman Sex Tape” which made light of some horrific aspects of life in the pre-Civil War United States.
In short, the Tubman character encourages a friend to hide in a closet and photograph her having “special time” with her slave master—evidence which she later uses to blackmail him. This quote from Clutch magazine explains why the clip angered everyone with an Internet connection on Wednesday:
During the “reenactment,” Tubman seduces her master, telling him, “All these years I’ve been acting like I didn’t enjoy our special time together.” The pair then engages in a sex act that culminates with Harriet’s master confessing his love for her, while she brushes him off, saying, “Look n*gga, I don’t give a damn about who you love.”
Ugh. Simmons used his own Global Grind outlet to issue an apology yesterday, noting that he’d “never taken down a controversial comedian” from his Def Comedy Jam venture but that a request from the NAACP (not to mention the Change.org petition, etc.) convinced him it was time to kill the clip.
Was that really enough, though? Clutch came back with a vengeance today in this op-ed; writer Kirsten West Savali calls the statement a “non-apology” and argues that Simmons simply bowed to public pressure. (He did call the clip “the funniest thing I’ve ever seen” before others explained to him why that wasn’t the case.) On Twitter, she also wondered why feminists at large haven’t expressed more outrage over the incident.
We get All Def’s attempts to create an edgier, more hip-hop-centric Funny or Die with series like “ADD History” and “Odd World”, which follows Odd Future spinoff group MellowHigh on a European tour. The latter may as well be called “Incredibly Stoned History” or “Wait, Which Country Are We In Right Now?”
But tripping out of the gate is never a good sign, and Simmons will continue to hear about this story on social media. Is a more…thorough apology in order?
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