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Amazon CEO clashes with NY Times columnist over platforming movie that landed Kyrie Irving in hot water

Amazon CEO Andy Jassy defended the company’s streaming service providing a platform to the controversial film that landed NBA star Kyrie Irving in hot water earlier this year, despite a New York Times columnist telling him Wednesday it could lead to violence. 

Irving received heavy backlash and was eventually suspended by the Brooklyn Nets after he shared a link to the film “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake up Black America,” that contains anti-Semitic disinformation. The star guard missed eight games while suspended by his team, but many wondered why Amazon received a pass for providing a platform to the film in the first place. Jassy, who succeeded Jeff Bezos as Amazon’s chief executive last year, was asked about the situation on Wednesday at The New York Times DealBook Summit. 

“Trying to decide which content… contains hate content to an extent that we don’t provide access to customers is one of the trickiest issues we deal with at the company. In some cases it’s more straight forward, when you have content that actively incites or promotes violence or teaches people to do things like pedophilia, I mean, those are easy. We don’t allow those, those are straight-forward decisions,” Jassy said.

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“When you have content whose primary purpose is not to espouse hate or ascribe negative characteristics to people, that is much trickier and a very slippery slope if we take a lot of those out of the store,” Jassy continued. “We have hundreds of millions of customers with lots of different viewpoints, and inside the company we won’t tolerate hate or discrimination, harassment, but we also recognize, as a retailer of content… we have to be willing to allow access to those viewpoints even if they are objectionable and even if they differ from our personal viewpoints.”

Andrew Ross Sorkin, the event’s moderator, responded that he was personally offended.

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“I’m Jewish, I don’t like it. I’ll be honest, I don’t like it. I’m worried about anti-Semitism, I’m worried about what we’re seeing across the country, across the globe. I think some of it may not incite violence in the moment, but could lead to it,” Sorkin said. 

“I’m Jewish, too,” Jassy responded. “I’m worried about anti-Semitism and I find several parts of that content very objectionable, but I think you have to have principals if you’re going to manage something as large as we do.”

The film’s description claims it “uncovers the true identity of the Children of Israel by proving the true ethnicity of Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, the Sons of Ham, Shem and Japheth. Find out what Islam, Judaism and Christianity has covered up for centuries in regards to the true biblical identity of the so-called ‘Negro’ in this movie packed with tons of research.”

Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving was widely criticized for promoting "Hebrews to Negroes: Wake up Black America," which is available on Amazon. 

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Jassy reiterated that he believes Amazon must allow all viewpoints as long as the “primary purpose” is not to incite violence or hate. He said Amazon honchos has been looking at putting some type of warning label on “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” but they are “tricky” issues because so many pieces of content are objectionable to different types of people. 

“We don’t want to have a store where every page has a disclaimer,” he said. “The reality… we have very expansive customer reviews… customers do a pretty good job of warning people when there is objectionable content.” 

Sorkin then asked the Amazon CEO about Irving’s suspension. 

“In my understanding, that was a Nets decision, more than an NBA decision. I don’t know all the details around why they ultimately decided to do it,” Jassy said. 

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Irving was widely criticized for posting the link to the film and the Nets decided to suspend him after he had two opportunities with the media to apologize for his comments but failed to do so. He has since completing the six-step checklist the Nets required of him before reinstatement and said he understands now how hurtful his comments were and regrets not apologizing sooner.

Fox News’ Scott Thompson contributed to this report. 

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