Over the past year, Jimmy, a 20-year-old YouTuber known as “MrBeast” who chooses not to reveal his last name in his videos, has gone repeatedly viral for giving away massive amounts of cash. Known to many in the community as “YouTube’s biggest philanthropist,” to date, he has donated more than $500,000 to people including an Uber driver, a waitress, random people in parking lots, Twitch streamers, and homeless people in his North Carolina neighborhood—all of which has been captured on his vlog.
In a recent video titled, “I Gave $500,000 To Random People,” Drake’s song “God’s Plan” plays over a montage of previous videos of Jimmy throwing out hundreds of dollars to strangers. He gave 3 million pennies ($30,000) to his 3 millionth subscriber, overtipped his cab drivers, and more. In one video he dropped $20,000 out of a drone; in another, he gave his mom $100,000 to help pay off her mortgage.
“My new thing when I am feeling down is to watch a MrBeast video and just see the pure joy on peoples faces when someone is nice for no reason, which in turn makes me feel better about the world in general,” one fan tweeted. “MrBeast videos are the best dumb videos I’ve ever seen,” said another.
If you’re curious how such a young man obtained such a large amount of cash, Jimmy only occasionally donates his own money. For most of his videos he acts as a social-media Robin Hood, donating the money he receives from brand deals. While giving away such large amounts of cash is undoubtedly noble, he doesn’t give away all his profits. And monetizing his viral videos also allows him to grow his audience.
He explains this to his mother in a video from December when he gives his mom a check for $100,000. She rejects the check repeatedly before Jimmy jokes, “If I don’t give it to you, I don’t have a viral video.” “So you’re using me for views?” she responds. “Yes, but you get money too, so we’re both happy,” he says.
Jimmy explained his generosity in a video from this month. “I genuinely enjoy helping people. It’s something I’ve had an issue with, I’m that much of a nice guy,” he says. “I don’t know why—and I’m not just saying this to look good—I’ve just always been a really nice guy.”
But what many people might consider not so nice are the homophobic jokes Jimmy has made on his YouTube channel or his habit of calling people “fags” on Twitter.
Jimmy regularly uses the notion of being gay as a punchline and treats the word like a slur, hurling it at people or things he’s attempting to diss. “Windows is gay,” he tweeted regarding his frustration using the operating system in December 2015. More recently, in December 2016, he responded to a tweet saying “I don’t have a printer fag.” Just this past December, in 2017, he replied to another person on Twitter, “STFU fag.”
Though Jimmy has stated on Twitter that he’s not gay, he jokes about the possibility often. In a video from last October titled “Giving $10,000 To Comments On This Video,” Jimmy wears a shirt emblazoned with the words, “I’m not gay, but $20 is $20.” In another, he stands in front of a pink Post-it note with the word “Gay” on it and an arrow pointing right toward him. His Twitter bio currently reads, “just because I’m gai doesn’t mean I’m gay.”
While some of his comments may seem par-for-the course for an unaware teen boy, many of his statements would be offensive regardless of his personal sexuality. When reached by phone on Thursday and given the opportunity to put his comments in context, Jimmy showed no regret or remorse.
“I’m not offensive toward anyone,” he said. “I’m not offensive in the slightest bit in anything I do. I’m just going to ignore it. I don’t think anyone cares about this stuff.” He then asked if The Atlantic could simply run a positive article about him, not including his use of slurs.
When informed that this was not an option, he suggested that he respond to a list of questions in writing over email, saying, “Wouldn’t it be easier if I just filled out these answers instead of saying this?” Finally, he said “I’m just a dumb kid that makes YouTube videos and I don’t like doing interviews,” before cutting the call short and hanging up.
Minutes after the call ended, Jimmy deleted all tweets using the word “fag” from his Twitter account.
Jimmy is beloved by many in the YouTube community. When a kid who worked for Jimmy as a contract video editor for a week accused him of faking portions of his videos, many other YouTubers defended him, calling the accusations baseless. Before they were made aware of his comments, two YouTubers told me they considered Jimmy to be kind, humble, and earnest.
But homophobia runs deep in the YouTube community, and Jimmy is not the first to be called out for making offensive statements. The British YouTube powerhouse Zoella was forced to apologize in November for mocking gay men on Twitter. Earlier last summer, the YouTuber Jack Jones had to apologize for a homophobic outburst. Jake and Logan Paul have also come under fire in the past for making homophobic statements on Twitter.
In the meantime, Jimmy continues to make videos and raise money for more YouTube philanthropy. Two weeks ago, on his birthday, he tweeted, “I’m 20 years old now, one of these days I’ll stop being an idiot.”