Nick Cannon wants to atone for making anti-Semitic comments. The Masked Singer host, 39, appeared on the American Jewish Committee’s online program AJC Advocacy Anywhere for a candid conversation with Rabbi Noam Marans. Cannon and Marans, AJC’s director of interreligious and intergroup relations, have been meeting in recent weeks so the comedian can better understand the impact of his “hurtful words.”
“I must first say, I’m sorry,” Cannon said at the beginning of the hourlong conversation on Monday. He compared the situation he’s found himself in to when his kids, whom he shares with Mariah Carey, go outside “and throw rocks.”
“When a rock hits someone, the first thing you do is say ‘I apologize’ … and then we’ll deal with why you were throwing rocks,” Cannon explained. “My words hurt people.”
The comedian apologized last month after the June 30 episode of his Cannon’s Class podcast made headlines. The anti-Semitic comments came during Cannon’s interview with Richard Griffin, aka Professor Griff, who once caused controversy of his own with anti-Semitic statements he made when he was part of Public Enemy. Fallout was swift, as ViacomCBS severed ties with Cannon.
Cannon explained his “goal” is to “break down the walls and barriers amongst communities and bring us closer together. It truly is time to get rid of all of the things that divide us and utilize this moment.”
Cannon repeatedly referred to himself as a “sacrificial lamb” — although Marans said he didn’t view him that way. The musician added that he hopes to bring together the Black and Jewish communities and is looking at building community centers in disenfranchised areas. Cannon noted that the goal shouldn’t be “two oppressed” groups “going at each other.”
“A lot of people may have been upset that I apologized, but I feel like that’s what someone of true character is actually supposed to do when they hurt someone,” he said. “Now, let’s get through this process of truth and reconciliation.”
Marans noted how both the Black and Jewish communities experience hate. He said that Jewish people are “the most attacked people on the basis of faith,” and Black people are “the most attacked people on the basis of race.”
“When they hate, they don’t discriminate,” Marans said. “African-Americans and Jews in this country have to fight the common enemy of hate.”
Cannon, who is studying to get his PhD at Howard University School of Divinity to become a theologian, said he has learned a lot by educating himself in recent weeks. He has met with leaders in the Jewish community, read new books and attended a Shabbat dinner. However, one of the most eye-opening calls after the controversy came from his mom.
“My mother has been calling me every single day since this happened with so much family history. My great-grandfather was a Spanish rabbi. He’s a Sephardic Jewish man. So, as much heat as I’ve been catching from the public and the outside, this hit home for my family in a real way because I come from a Black and Jewish family on my mother’s side,” Cannon revealed. He said he didn’t want to disclose that earlier and make it seem like he was trying to find “an excuse” for what he said. However, it was something he had previously discussed with Marans.
During the discussion, it was clear there’s one point the rabbi and Cannon have yet to find common ground on.
Cannon was asked about the role Louis Farrakhan has played in the Black community and if he’s willing to publicly call Farrakhan out for the Nation of Islam leader’s anti-Semitic rhetoric. Cannon called it a “difficult question” and tried to explain how he looks at the good that Farrakhan has done for the Black community.
“I can never stand for anything hateful … I can never stand for anything that does harm or treachery to a community,” Cannon replied. “I can’t ever throw away a leader to the Black community … I can condemn the message, but I can never condemn the messenger.”
Marans said he found Cannon’s answer to be “not fully satisfactory,” explaining, “The not good trouble that you got into was because the narratives that you had heard from others as your leaders. And therefore, because you have gone down this road, you have a responsibility I think to call it out.”
“Absolutely,” Cannon replied. “I take full blame for everything that I said.”
Monday marked Cannon’s first appearance on a Jewish program.