Lakeith Stanfield came under fire earlier this month for participating in a Clubhouse conversation that facilitated anti-Semitic remarks in a discussion about the teachings of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. While he has since apologized, the “Judas and the Black Messiah” Oscar nominee dug deeper into what happened in a sit-down with The Daily Beast published on Saturday.
“I definitely don’t align myself with Louis Farrakhan, I don’t stand by him,” he said. “Any kind of hate speech, I vehemently reject. That’s not up for debate, hate is not up for debate.”
Comments made by participants in the Clubhouse room (titled “Someone Ended the Room About Farrakhan,” spawned from another room that was shut down) included praise of Hitler, conspiracy theories about Jewish people running the slave trade, and comparisons of Jewish people to termites.
Stanfield admitted to playing an active role in the room, as he eventually wound up moderating the discussion, but said his knowledge of Farrakhan (whose legacy has long been marked by anti-Semitic remarks) was narrow, which prompted him to enter the room. “I was curious to kind of educate myself more on the topic,” he said.
Ari Inger, director of the Creative Community of Peace, described the room to The Daily Beast as the “worst vile anti-Semitism that you can imagine being spewed and the Jewish community trying to defend [themselves] to no avail.” Inger added, “It was an extremely troubling room and an extremely disturbing amount of anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories, from Jews running the slave trade, to Jews controlling the slave trade, to running all the banks, to running all the studios — you name it it was in there.”
“I was much more interested in sort of uncovering this information, so it wasn’t about Louis Farrakhan per se,” Stanfield said. “Me going into the room, it was more about trying to uncover more information about these things that he said or didn’t say, because I wasn’t quite clear on it.”
He added, “It was so chaotic in the room, there were a couple of outbursts. … I think I remember someone saying something about ‘All Jews run the world’ or something kind of crazy, and that was one of the people I put down in the audience. But for the most part, one outburst would happen and then the conversation would kind of go back into a normal rhythm.”
At one point, a Jewish woman called out Stanfield for being present in the room, and noted the potentially dangerous influence he could have considering his 79,000-plus followers on Clubhouse.
“I was really caught off guard, because first of all, I didn’t host the room,” Stanfield said. “But I also didn’t feel that the conversation was really headed in a direction that was completely attacking Jewish people. At that point, I thought there were still people saying their points and then other people saying their points. So, I explained to her that I know that this is a very tense and emotional conversation to have, and I just want everyone to have the time to be able to engage in conversation. So, that was part of me trying to moderate this conversation that was happening.”
Stanfield said he was never in fear of being “canceled” because, as he said, he is not anti-Semitic. “Let me just make it clear: I don’t support any form of hatred whatsoever, any kind of anti-Semitic statements that were made, anybody that tried to single out a group of people and make up allegations and say crazy things about them or their people? I don’t support that in any way whatsoever. Never did, never will,” he said.
But a music video obtained by The Daily Beast that Lakeith Stanfield posted on YouTube in 2013 (since removed) adds a troubling wrinkle to the story. Titled “Swastikas and Bones,” the video allegedly features Stanfield rapping with his shirt off and a swastika digitally added to his forehead.
“I actually forgot about it,” Stanfield said. “Honestly, it wasn’t something that I did for a public viewership, like I have now. I did it a long time ago before I had even done anything. So, I kind of forgot it existed really.”
He admitted, “It was stupid and that was dumb. That was a terrible mistake for me to even try and use it, even to try to get across a point that had nothing to do really with hatred. So, I’d never do that again. I’d never use that symbol again.”
Stanfield is currently in London filming the upcoming season of FX’s “Atlanta.”