ViacomCBS has reestablished its working relationship with Nick Cannon. The move, company insiders tell Variety, comes as a result of the steps that the performer and producer has taken to engage and partner with Jewish leaders and make amends for anti-Semitic statements he made last summer that led to ViacomCBS to cut its ties to Cannon.
Production on new episodes of Cannon’s long running MTV comedy series “Wild ‘N Out” is expected to resume at some point beyond the near future. Old episodes of “Wild ‘N Out” are returning to MTV’s linear schedule this week.
“Nick has not only apologized and taken responsibility for his comments, but he has also worked to educate himself and others through engagement with Jewish leaders and on his platforms,” an MTV Entertainment Group spokesperson told Variety. “Those efforts are of the utmost importance and that’s why we have invited him to rejoin our team. On a separate note, we just learned that he tested positive for COVID and have reached out to wish him a speedy recovery.”
Cannon has earned praise in recent months from Jewish leaders for partnering with Jewish community organizations against anti-Semitism. In August, Cannon and Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt co-authored an op-ed in the Jewish newspaper the Forward on the anniversary of 2017 the white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., and the need for Black and Jewish leaders to work together. A month earlier, Cannon toured the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance and pledged a donation to the organization.
“He appears to be someone who’s genuine in his desire to make sure people understand his apology,” Wiesenthal Center associate dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Associated Press at the time. Cooper added that the spirit of Cannon’s dialogue with him appeared to be “How do we roll up our sleeves? What can we do together?” Other Jewish leaders, including Greenblatt, Rabbi Noam E. Marans of the American Jewish Committee and Rabbi Motti Seligson of Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters have publicly engaged with Cannon and expressed support for his efforts.
When asked for comment, Cannon’s rep said that he is unavailable as he is currently quarantining after testing positive for COVID.
Viacom and MTV have long been partners with the ADL on a number of initiatives — among them a corporate culture code for MTV Entertainment Group instituted last year under McCarthy and which the Museum of Tolerance, GLAAD and Color of Change also consulted on. As part of that initiative, Cannon, Cooper and Greenblatt recently participated in a town hall with company employees. Last week, the MTV Entertainment Group marked Holocaust Remembrance Day with a PSA featuring a variation on Martin Niemöller’s widely circulated post-World War II confessional “First They Came …”
Cannon asserted that Black people are “the true Hebrews” during a June 30 episode of his podcast “Cannon’s Class” in which he gave credence to false anti-Semitic conspiracy theories regarding “Zionists” and the Rothschild family. “It’s never hate speech, you can’t be anti-Semitic when we are the Semitic people, when we are the same people who they want to be.” Cannon said during an in interview with rapper Richard Griffin, known for his decades-long record of hate speech against Jews. “That’s our birthright. We are the true Hebrews.” The remarks were met with widespread outrage, and ViacomCBS moved quickly to sever ties with Cannon, who created the long-running MTV comedy show “Wild ‘N Out” and held deep ties with company’s Nickelodeon kids-and-family unit.
After his firing by ViacomCBS, Cannon was combative. He publicly insisted that ViacomCBS apologize to him and hand over ownership of “Wild ‘N Out” to him. “If I have furthered the hate speech, I wholeheartedly apologize,” Cannon wrote in a rambling Facebook post. “But now I am the one making demands.”
Cannon’s other business partners proved less eager to distance themselves from him. On July 15, the day after ViacomCBS severed ties with him, Cannon issued a second apology for his remarks that was coupled with the announcement by Fox Entertainment that he would stay on as host of its reality competition “The Masked Singer,” broadcast television’s highest rated entertainment program. Last week, Fox and Debmar Mercury struck a deal to move forward with a stalled plan to launch a daytime talk show hosted by Cannon. (As Variety reported Wednesday, Cannon has since tested positive for COVID and will thus be absent from at least the first few episodes of the new season of “The Masked Singer,” which is set to premiere in March.)
In August, the door for Cannon and ViacomCBS to reconcile appeared to open when MTV Entertainment Group president Chris McCarthy, speaking at a company town hall, praised work Cannon had done engaging Jewish community leaders after his outburst and described himself as “hopeful” that ViacomCBS would again do business with Cannon.