Prominent vlogger Jake Paul (not to be confused with his equally obnoxious brother, the idiot behind the infamous “suicide forest” video) has landed in hot water again this weekend. Several widely circulated videos on Instagram and Twitter show him and his friends at an Arizona mall while looting is taking place, though it’s unclear from the footage whether they are participating themselves.
On Sunday, Paul shared a statement on Twitter denying that he or his crew took part in the looting going on around them in the video.
“To be absolutely clear, neither I nor anyone in our group was engaged in any looting or vandalism,” he said. “We filmed everything we saw in an effort to share our experience and bring more attention to the anger felt in every neighborhood we traveled through; we were strictly documenting, not engaging.”
He added that he and his friends were filming and peacefully protesting throughout the day as people across the country and around the world demanded justice for George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for several minutes while he gasped for breath, as captured on video by a bystander. At some point during these protests, police officers sprayed Paul and his crew with tear gas, he claimed in Sunday’s statement.
But Paul’s explanation only prompted further questions and rebukes from critics online, particularly regarding his choice to devote so much footage to the looting and vandalism going on as opposed to the many peaceful protests occurring in the area at the time. And even without participating personally, Paul’s still profiting indirectly from the unrest by turning it into content to entertain his 20 million YouTube subscribers.
Which, granted, isn’t illegal. But it is incredibly gross for a white millionaire and his other rich friends to try and use a Black Lives Matter protest for the clout. One critic called his actions “the epitome of white male privilege” and accused him of “creating chaos just for content.”
It wouldn’t be the first time Paul’s tried to leverage salient news stories about human suffering into fuel for his online brand. After the horrific 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, he took a break from his channel’s usual dangerous antics to speak with survivors and offer his take on school shootings (essentially, they’re bad and should stop. Sage wisdom, truly).
Looking for ways to advocate for black lives? Check out this list of resources by our sister site Lifehacker for ways to get involved.