Rapper Wiley has insisted he is not racist as he apologised for “generalising” in a series of anti-Semitic tweets.
The musician, whose real name is Richard Cowie, was widely condemned for the anti-Jewish posts on Twitter starting on Friday, and was initially given a temporary ban from the social media site, with the majority of his tweets remaining visible. But on Wednesday, Twitter said it had permanently suspended him and apologised for being slow to act.
In an interview with Sky News, Wiley said: “I just want to apologise for generalising and going outside of the people who I was talking to within the workspace and workplace I work in.
“My comments should not have been directed to all Jews or Jewish people.
“I want to apologise for generalising, and I want to apologise for comments that were looked at as anti-Semitic.
“I’m not racist, you know. I’m a businessman. My thing should have stayed between me and my manager, I get that.”
When asked if he accepts his comments were anti-Semitic, he told Sky News: “My comments should not have been directed to all Jews or Jewish people.”
Wiley’s manager John Woolf, who is Jewish, said A-List Management had “cut all ties” with the musician following the series of social media posts. Asked on Sky News what he would say to his fans who may incite hatred or commit violent acts against Jewish people, Wiley told the broadcaster: “Well, you’ve never seen me commit a violent act towards Jewish people or the Jewish community.
“You know fans are fickle. Don’t wind me up. I’m 41 years old. It’s not like I have got a big bag of fans.
“Leave it. I’m not Dave. I’m not current. I’m at the end of my career rather than the beginning.”
Wiley, known as the Godfather of Grime, was made an MBE for services to music in 2018.
The Campaign Against Antisemitism has said it will contact the Cabinet Office to ask for Wiley’s MBE to be revoked.
According to Sky News, Wiley said he would be willing to give it up as he “never wanted it”.
He told the broadcaster: “I never felt comfortable going to get it. Just look at Britain’s colonialism history.”
A Twitter spokesman said: “Upon further investigation, our teams have permanently suspended the account in question for repeated violations of our hateful conduct policy.
“Let us be clear: hateful conduct has absolutely no place on our service and we strongly condemn anti-Semitism. We are sorry we did not move faster and are continuing to assess the situation internally.
“We deeply respect the concerns shared by the Jewish community and online safety advocates, and we will continue to work closely with government, NGOs, civil society partners and our industry peers to tackle anti-Semitism on Twitter.”
The Campaign Against Antisemitism welcomed news that “Twitter has finally listened”, but said the action was “too little, too late”.
It said in a statement:
“It is at least a start for this deeply irresponsible social network.
“After Twitter’s abysmal response to the blatant ant-Jewish incitement on its platform, last night we decided to literally shine a light on the company and project on to its London headquarters some of the hateful tweets that Twitter permits on its platform.
“From their pitiful responses to the hate spewed daily on their platform, it is evident that social media companies will stop at nothing to make a profit. It is time for these deeply damaging and irresponsible companies to be held accountable for the hatred they help spread.”
Social networks have faced criticism for not acting sooner to take down the content, with Downing Street saying their response “has not been good enough”.
Twitter and Instagram’s alleged slowness to act prompted politicians, celebrities and other prominent names to carry out a 48-hour walkout from both platforms, using the hashtag #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate.
Facebook and Instagram banned Wiley from their platforms on Tuesday.
Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: “It appears that Twitter has now suspended the account of Richard Cowie, or Wiley, six days after he began an extended anti-Semitic rant and nearly all the way through a 48-hour walkout from Twitter by the Jewish community and its allies.
“Instagram was also slow on this, deleting his profile only yesterday. It is just not good enough. Social media companies have not been strong or fast enough about tackling racism, misogyny or homophobia.
“We will be talking to Twitter today, and other social media companies and government partners over the coming days, to make sure this does not happen again. There must be #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate.”