Rap Genius Co-Founder Moghadam Fired Over Tasteless Comments on Santa Barbara Shooting
M de Bourgoing
Rap Genius co-founder Mahbod Moghadam has been fired from the annotation service after posting appalling comments on the memoir of mass murderer Elliot Rodger, who killed six people in a shooting spree earlier this week.
In now-removed annotations on the site on the sick 141-page manifesto, Moghadam added a tasteless series of comments, including “beautifully written” and also “MY GUESS: his sister is smokin hot.”
My annotation: Good riddance.
The comments were first written about by Valleywag, which published images of Moghadam’s annotations like the one above.
In a statement, Rap Genius co-founder and CEO Tom Lehman said Moghadam had resigned as an employee and also from the board of directors.
It read in part:
“However, Mahbod Moghadam, one of my co-founders, annotated the piece with annotations that not only didn’t attempt to enhance anyone’s understanding of the text, but went beyond that into gleeful insensitivity and misogyny. All of which is contrary to everything we’re trying to accomplish at Rap Genius.”
(You think? Dear Rap Genius: People died due to a mentally ill man who had deeply warped problems with women and a dangerous streak of misogyny. But at least you moved quickly to remove him.)
Thankfully, sources close to the situation said he was actually asked to leave the company in a decision by Lehman, but there was also pressure from investors and others internally. In a tweet, which you can see below, Ben Horowitz of Andreessen Horowitz — which is a big backer of Rap Genius — said he has a “conversation” with Lehman, but did not characterize it as pressure.
Whatever the case, it was a definitely a bridge too far — especially after the entire group of founders has already wallowed in a number of controversial issues, calling attention more to their idiotic hijinks than to their business.
Here is Moghadam’s apology on Twitter:
And here’s Lehman’s whole statement:
A Statement About Mahbod’s Annotations on Elliot Rodger’s Manifesto
Yesterday the Rap Genius community annotated Elliot Rodger’s manifesto on News Genius. Because this tragedy is still so raw, there was internal debate as to whether this document belonged on the site at all. Ultimately we decided that it was worthy of close reading — understanding the psychology of people who do horrible things can help us to better understand our society and ourselves.
The current version of the annotated document is far from great, but the hope is that the annotations will improve over time as the story unfolds and it will eventually be a good resource for people looking to understand this tragedy.
Almost all the annotations were at least attempting a close reading — they were genuinely, though imperfectly, trying to add context to the text and make it easier to understand.
However, Mahbod Moghadam, one of my co-founders, annotated the piece with annotations that not only didn’t attempt to enhance anyone’s understanding of the text, but went beyond that into gleeful insensitivity and misogyny. All of which is contrary to everything we’re trying to accomplish at Rap Genius.
Were Mahbod’s annotations posted by a new Rap Genius user, it would be up to our community leaders, who set the tone of the site and our approach to annotation, to delete them and explain to the new user why they were unacceptable.
Were Mahbod’s annotations posted by a Rap Genius moderator, that person would cease to be an effective community leader and would have to step down.
And Mahbod, our original community leader, is no exception. In light of this, Mahbod has resigned — both in his capacity as an employee of the company, and as a member of our board of directors, effective immediately.
Mahbod is my friend. He’s a brilliant, creative, complicated person with a ton of love in his heart. Without Mahbod Rap Genius would not exist, and I am grateful for all he has done to help Rap Genius succeed. But I cannot let him compromise the Rap Genius mission — a mission that remains almost as delicate and inchoate as it was when we three founders decided to devote our lives to it almost 5 years ago.
Co-Founder & CEO