WASHINGTON ― The creator of Pepe the Frog wishes the Anti-Defamation League hadn’t added the cartoon to its online database of hate symbols.
“I think they really jumped the gun on that one,” artist Matt Furie told “So That Happened,” the HuffPost Politics podcast.
“To lump Pepe the Frog as being similar to a swastika or a burning cross or any of this other nonsense ― I think they kind of rushed to do that because of whatever’s going on in politics right now,” Furie said.
Furie, 37, is a professional artist in Los Angeles. Pepe is a character from a comic called “Boy’s Club” that he created in 2005. The comic had nothing to do with politics, but Pepe somehow became a meme. And the so-called “alt-right,” a white supremacist movement that loves memes, has adopted him as a sort of mascot in the last year.
Last fall, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump shared an image of himself as Pepe.
The ADL itself noted Pepe’s harmless origins when it announced the cartoon’s hate-symbol status on Tuesday.
“Also referred to as the ‘sad frog meme,’ Pepe the Frog did not originally have anti-Semitic connotations,” the organization said. “However, it was inevitable that, as the meme proliferated in on-line venues such as 4chan, 8chan, and Reddit, which have many users who delight in creating racist memes and imagery, a subset of Pepe memes would come into existence that centered on racist, anti-Semitic or other bigoted themes.”
Furie said he thought the ADL rushed to denounce bigoted Pepe memes “to kind of support Hillary’s claim that Pepe is mostly used by white supremacists, when he’s mostly used by just kids on the internet.”
He said he hoped young people who aren’t into election politics would “take him back” from the alt-right, noting that non-bigoted Pepe apparel and the original “Boy’s Club” comic are available online.
“So, That Happened” is hosted by Jason Linkins, Zach Carter and Arthur Delaney. This podcast is produced, edited and engineered by Christine Conetta.