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JonTron addresses anti-immigration remarks and fallout in new interview

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‘I understand why people had the reaction they did’

YouTuber Jon Jafari is addressing inflammatory remarks he made during a debate with Twitch streamer Steven Bonnell II earlier this year for the first time since the stream occurred.

In March, Jafari, who is better known as JonTron and a former member of Let’s Play channel Game Grumps, participated in a two-hour debate with Bonnell II after remarks Jafari made about immigration on Twitter. During his two hours on stream, Jafari made a number of comments about people who immigrated to the United States, arguing that “we don’t need immigrants from incompatible places” and “nobody wants to become a minority in their own country.” The entire debate, in which Bonnell II challenges Jafari on his views, can be seen below.

Following the incident, Jafari released a video statement in an attempt to clarify his statements, using articles about white privilege and debates over “racism against white people” to defend his stance. During a recent appearance on the H3 Podcast, which is hosted by Ethan and Hila Klein, Jafari was asked about the comments he made. Co-host Ethan Klein asked him whether he believed his statements or regrets saying what he did. Jafari didn’t backtrack his statements, but addressed comments he made nonetheless. Those comments can be heard in their entirety in the video above, beginning at 46:40.

“In that moment, I was going into something that I needed a lot more time to prep for,” Jafari said. “I just went in, guns blazing, because you know, you get a little arrogant sometimes ... obviously I understand why people had the reaction they did. I look back at some of that stuff and I say, ‘Why the fuck did I say that?’ No matter right or wrong, that’s a bad look.

“The main question on everyone’s mind is ‘Is he a racist? Is he a Nazi?’ Simple answer: No.”

Jafari went on to say that he “treats everyone with the same respect they afford” him, adding that he felt bad about the incident, but also felt bad “that we can’t talk about these things without witch hunting each other.” Jafari said that he’s not the person to fight his battle, alluding to conversations about immigration between people with left-wing and right-leaning political stances.

Since Jafari's inflammatory comments in March, the YouTuber has kept discussion about immigration and politics relatively quiet on his Twitter account. Though he hasn't been shy about liking tweets by prolific right-wing and alt-right voices about subjects like anti-immigration.

When pressed by Ethan Klein (who noted that he disagreed with Jafari’s statements) on the H3 Podcast about whether or not he believes people can separate Jafari as a YouTuber from his personal politics, Jafari said he didn’t think it was “too much of a stretch to say the current social climate is insane,” falling back on the argument that he’s just a comedian.

Jafari’s earlier remarks resulted in developer Playtonic removing his work on the game Yooka-Laylee, in which he voiced a character.

“We recently became aware of comments made by voice artist JonTron after development on Yooka-Laylee had been completed,” Playtonic said in a statement to GamesIndustry.biz from March, adding that “in light of his recent personal viewpoints we have made the decision to remove JonTron’s inclusion in the game via a forthcoming content update.”

Playtonic issued another statement addressing its relationship with the YouTuber, which can be read in full below.

We would like to make absolutely clear that we do not endorse or support JonTron’s personal viewpoints and that, as an external fan contributor, he does not represent Playtonic in any capacity. Playtonic is a studio that celebrates diversity in all forms and strives to make games that everyone can enjoy. As such, we deeply regret any implied association that could make players feel anything but 100% comfortable in our game worlds, or distract from the incredible goodwill and love shown by our fans and Kickstarter backers.

Jafari’s name came up once again when controversy arose over developer Gears for Breakfast’s long-awaited game, A Hat in Time. Jafari’s voice acting work in the game was left untouched (although his character went from being a penguin to an owl). Gears for Breakfast didn’t comment on Jafari’s inclusion in the game, but multiple members of the forum NeoGAF claimed they would boycott the game because of Jafari’s role.

In May, NormalBoots, a website and channel dedicated to video games that Jafari helped start, issued a statement regarding his role in future videos. The statement, which can be read in full below, stated that while Jafari would have a role as an “honorary founder, but not an active member,” adding that “this is nothing like a dethroning of power” and “Jon hasn’t been kicked out of NormalBoots.”

Jafari noted multiple times during the interview with H3H3 that he didn’t want to talk about it, and had gone out of his way to try and avoid that topic. Jafari said his remarks to Ethan Klein on the podcast would count as his official statement on the subject. The YouTuber also noted that he would be focusing less on gaming content, which he’s already begun to do, and will focus on other subjects for commentary.