YouTube Drama Accounts Turn on Each Other Over Shane Dawson
Update 7/10: Sanders Kennedy has deleted all videos about contaning his recent Shane Dawson accusations.
The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department is now, somehow, at the center of YouTube’s latest drama. Creator Shane Dawson, 31, has been under fire in recent weeks for his past racist videos and inappropriate comments about minors. Things escalated on Tuesday when a popular YouTube drama channel, Sanders Kennedy, announced that the LASD had opened an unspecified investigation into Dawson after receiving a third party complaint. But in the past 24 hours, Kennedy himself has gotten backlash after other accounts reported that there is no such investigation. Some have even accused Kennedy of making the complaint himself in order to then report on it.
Shane Dawson has over 22 million subscribers and hails from the early days of YouTube, first posting under the channel ShaneDawsonTV in 2008. He gained popularity for his crude, often culturally insensitive comedic characters, but has pivoted to longform YouTube commentary, including his three-part series about TanaCon in 2018 and his 2019 collaboration with Jefree Star. He’s had to apologize for a number of offensive incidents over the years, most recently, inappropriate comments and actions he’s been documented making related to minors, including a video of him performing a sexual gesture towards a poster of a then-11-year-old Willow Smith, which earned him public condemnations from Jaden and and Jada Pinkett-Smith. Dawson has since posted a video titled “Taking Accountability” and stepped back from the internet, but remains at the center of YouTube drama thanks to Kennedy’s recent video.
On July 6, Kennedy uploaded a video titled “EXCLUSIVE: LA Sheriff's Dept. Investigating Shane Dawson; Survivors Urged To Come Forward.” In it, he claimed that the LASD exclusively confirmed to him that there was an open investigation against the creator involving claims of inappropriate sexual behavior with minors, teasing video footage and screenshots that they had been made aware of. But not long after the video was posted, a fellow YouTube drama commentator, Keemstar, appeared to debunk the report with a text from Dawson himself.
“My attorney confirmed with the LA Sheriff’s Department today that there is no open investigation,” he reportedly texted on July 7.
That same day, YouTube commentator Dennis Feitosa also reported that he spoke to the LASD and confirmed there is no open investigation.
Shane Dawson is not being investigated by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, said Officer David Payne of the LASD. I spoke to 2 officers at LASD, including Officer Payne. The LASD does not have an official statement on the matter as there is no open investigation. 1/2— Def Noodles (@defnoodles) July 7, 2020
When reached for comment, a spokesperson for the LASD said the department has not released any official statement on the matter.
Kennedy says he stands by his initial reporting, but clarified in a follow-up video that some important details were omitted from his original announcement— namely, that the inquiry is still a “suspicious circumstance” investigation, which he confirms by playing a recording of his phone call with the LASD (this would mean that more evidence would be needed to open a criminal investigation against Dawson). Kennedy says he received this call from the LASD after he himself contacted them, seemingly to bring the accusations against Dawson to their attention. This has prompted fellow YouTube drama creators and commentators like Adam McIntyre to accuse Kennedy of calling the LASD with a tip about Dawson in order to give himself something to report. This has led to somewhat of a reckoning in the YouTube drama community.
“Isn’t the sole purpose of drama/commentary/opinion-based channels to talk about things that are now public knowledge?” McIntyre asks in his recent video about the situation, adding, “There is so much out there already that you don’t have to make shit up.”
Commentator D'Angelo Wallace posted a similar critique on Twitter.
“I work hard to keep my facts straight, double-check everything even if I miss deadlines, and disclose if I'm speculating,” he said. “I make videos to entertain/inform, not to get people to pay a membership fee to watch me lie about criminal investigations.”
The ultimate question: Are drama channels observers or are they journalists? To call the LASD and inquire about a possible investigation is not unheard of in the world of journalism, but for YouTube commentators it crosses an unspoken line about their position in the community. To say there’s a code of ethics may be generous, but the accounts do generally work hard to make sure the most egregious thing they can be accused of is clickbait—not slander. Otherwise, they risk the first actual LASD investigation being about … themselves.