Russell Simmons has landed in hot water after publishing a "sex tape" spoof about legendary abolitionist Harriet Tubman on his newly-launched All Def Digital YouTube channel. The Def Jam co-founder issues an apology and takes down the offending video after controversy arises.
The video sees the iconic figure, portrayed by an actress, having sex with her white slave master. She has someone secretly filmed it and then uses the tape to blackmail him into giving her control of the Underground Railroad which the real Tubman used to free fellow slaves many years ago.
"Funniest thing I've ever seen Harriet Tubman sex diaries," Simmons wrote Wednesday, August 14 on his Twitter along with a link to the parody. Criticisms soon erupted on the internet. He was criticized for distorting Tubman's legacy and mocking slave rape with his insensitive jokes.
"In the whole history of Def Comedy Jam, I've never taken down a controversial comedian," the hip-hop mogul said in his lengthy apology. "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'm a very liberal person with thick skin. My first impression of the Harriet Tubman piece was that it was about what one of the 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."
"This was about black women, and I know how much they go through and how much they've been through, and if they were hurt the way they were hurt, then I was hurt," he said. "It's the oldest form of black comedy - the oppressed turning the tables on the oppressor."
"That's what I saw in that video. I didn't see some of the things that hurt black women, and had I seen those things I probably wouldn't have put it up. Politically, it was okay. Emotionally, it was not," he added. "I would never condone violence against women in any form, and for all of those I offended, I am sincerely sorry."