Controversy over a comedy short helped Russell Simmons launch his new YouTube channel All Def Digital yesterday. But a firestorm of complaints over Harriet Tubman Sex Tape, in which the abolitionist has sex with her master in order to blackmail him into creating the Underground Railroad, led Simmons to pull the video today and issue an apology. “In the whole history of Def Comedy Jam, I’ve never taken down a controversial comedian,” said Simmons in a statement. “When my buddies from the NAACP called and asked me to take down the Harriet Tubman video from the All Def Digital YouTube channel and apologize, I agreed.”
I get it and I respect it. The Harriet Tubman video has been removed… http://t.co/A63ysZgeJu
— Russell Simmons (@UncleRUSH) August 15, 2013
“I’m a very liberal person with thick skin,” he continues. “My first impression of the Harriet Tubman piece was that it was about what one of actors said in the video, that 162 years later, there’s still tremendous injustice. And with Harriet Tubman outwitting the slave master? I thought it was politically correct. Silly me. I can now understand why so many people are upset. I have taken down the video. Lastly, I would never condone violence against women in any form, and for all of those I offended, I am sincerely sorry.”
Harriet Tubman Sex Tape was one of the All Def Digital channel’s initial rollout of content and the first in its series intended to “[shed] the bright light of ADD Comedy on history.” Simmons’ channel, launched with DreamWorks Animation‘s AwesomenessTV, also curates original music, sketch comedy, and spoken word pieces. Extreme online and social media backlash within days of ADD’s launch and initial brand debut prompted the unexpected retraction from Simmons. Particularly since Simmons courted controversy in the ’90s with his long-running Def Comedy Jam series for HBO, which gave a platform to rising and often boundary-pushing new comedians. Tapings then were frequented by the likes of Spike Lee. Lee wasn’t laughing at the Harriet Tubman short when he took to Twitter today to slam the video:
Just Saw Russell Simmons Produced Skit "HARRIET TUBMAN SEXTAPE.I Ask Why Do We Desecrate Our Ancestors?Why Do We Hate Ourselves?QUESTION???
— Spike Lee (@SpikeLee) August 15, 2013
Although the vid’s been taken down from Simmons’ official channel, it’s been re-posted for now: