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YouTube personality Logan Paul is once again in the public eye after a New York senator asked the Food and Drug Administration to investigate his energy drink, Prime, for allegedly targeting children and boasting an insanely high amount of caffeine. But as anyone who has spent time on the internet already knows, this isn’t the first time that Paul has come under fire over one of his sponsored products or social media stunts.
In fact, Paul has been personally involved in so many controversies that the YouTube star might be living proof that cancel culture doesn’t exist — or a least has no financial impact on the lives of the rich and famous. The Ohio native turned Los Angeles prankster started on Vine as a sketch account in 2014. After the app ended, he built a YouTube empire 23 million subscribers deep with his channel. He and his brother, Jake Paul, also helmed Team 10, an incubator and label for social media stars that started the now extremely popular model of collab houses (influencers living together and cross-posting to grow their followings) — which helped Paul become one of the richest content creators in 2018. And he’s successfully spun almost nine years of prank videos and his reputation as a polarizing stunt king into a career professionally wrestling with WWE.
But for Paul — who didn’t respond to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment — success didn’t come without numerous gaffes. Paul’s pattern of seeking the clickiest, wildest pranks and stunts has made several high-profile apologies necessary. Here is a look back at some of his biggest controversies.
December 2017: Suicide Forest Vlog
Perhaps one of the devastating controversies of Paul’s career involved a December 2017 trip to Japan. In one of several vlogs he posted of the trip, Paul visited the Aokigahara, a forest by Mount Fuji that is infamously referred to as Japan’s suicide forest. While wearing a green Toy Story hat, Paul filmed himself traipsing through the forest, playing up the “spooky,” death-related aspects of the forest, and included uncensored footage of a man who appeared to have hanged himself. The video received 6 million views on its first day, but Paul deleted it after viewers expressed outrage at his decision to include a video of the seemingly deceased man. Following public outrage, YouTube removed Paul from its exclusive Google Preferred advertising tier.
After an original apology note he published on Twitter was criticized, Paul gave several public pleas for forgiveness, including a longer YouTube video and a plethora of interviews. After staying off of Youtube for three weeks, Paul returned to the site with a seven-minute video about suicide awareness and a pledge to donate $1 million to the cause. (According to the Mighty, Paul had donated $318,000 by 2018. Representatives for Paul did not respond to Rolling Stone’s inquiry about the rest of the pledge.)
“I will think twice in the future about what I post,” Paul told Good Morning America host Michael Strahan in his first sit-down interview after the incident, where he apologized while also blaming parents for not monitoring their kids’ shows. “I think parents should be monitoring what their children are watching more. Every parent I meet whose kids are under the age of 12, I go, ‘Hey, you let your kids watch my stuff?’ And they go, ‘Yeah. What am I going to do?’ But at the same time, it’s not like I am a bad guy. I am a good guy who made a bad decision.”
February 2018: Tasering Dead Rats
Yes, you read that correctly. Weeks after Paul was globally and publicly chastised for a video posted for shock value, the creator had all ads pulled from his videos after he posted a vlog firing a taser at two dead rats he found on his balcony. He also pulled a live koi fish from the water and “performed CPR” on it by pressing repeatedly on its stomach.
In a public statement, the animal rights organization PETA called for YouTube to remove the video: “Logan Paul, TRUE mavericks don’t find humor in suffering & death. It’s time to stop. This sort of content has no place on YouTube or anywhere else, as it could desensitize young people to cruelty to animals.”
Because of how closely the stunts followed Paul’s suicide forest vlog, YouTube instituted an ad ban on all of Paul’s videos, making him unable to make money from any views. “In response to Logan Paul’s recent pattern of behavior, we’ve temporarily suspended ads on his channels,” a spokesperson for YouTube said. “We believe he has exhibited a pattern of behavior in his videos that makes his channel not only unsuitable for advertisers but also potentially damaging to the broader creator community.” (The ban was temporary; he was later able to once again monetize his content.)
January 2019: Podcast Apologies
Not to be outdone by the numerous and completely separate controversies started by his brother Jake, Paul also received backlash for comments he made on his Impaulsive podcast. While discussing his New Year’s resolutions, Paul said he was going to have a “male-only March” by attempting “to go gay for just one month.”
The creator was accused of mocking the LGBTQ community. “That’s not how it works,” queer advocacy group GLAAD tweeted.
Paul apologized for the comment, but not without suggesting the organization help him with some more content. “Very poor choice of words… my fault,” he responded. “Let’s get together and talk about it on my podcast next week?”
January 2023: Crypto Zoo
It was only a matter of time before the Crypto craze reached the internet’s biggest names. And who better to promote an NFT-based scheme than Paul? First announced in 2021, Paul introduced his game CryptoZoo, which he told Forbes would be a video game where users would hatch and grow NFT animals that would increase in value as they grew.
But he never delivered on its promises, and the full game was never released. Following a three-part investigative series from Stephen Findeisen, the YouTube crypto investigator known as CoffeeZilla, a class action lawsuit was filed against Paul, accusing the creator of fraud and negligent business practices. Paul, in turn, pointed the finger at his developers, and denied all wrongdoing. Representatives for Paul told Rolling Stone earlier this year that “all deserving parties will be reimbursed.”
“[Paul and others behind with CryptoZoo] made the business decision to forego an expensive and time-consuming process to create a functional CryptoZoo game or support it, and instead deliberately undertook a scheme to defraud Plaintiff and other consumers,” read the suit, which is still ongoing.
July 2023: PRIME Energy Drinks
This leads us to our most recent, but probably not the last, controversy from Paul. New York Senator Charles Schumer has requested that the FDA investigate Paul’s drink, Prime, for its marketing and caffeine content.
“One of the summer’s hottest status symbols for kids is not an outfit, or a toy — it’s a beverage,” Schumer wrote in his complaint. “But buyer and parents beware because it’s a serious health concern for the kids it so feverishly targets.”
He also added that even though the drink has a warning that it’s “not recommended for children under 18,” Prime doesn’t have a noticeable difference between its energy drink Prime Energy and the caffeine-free version Prime Hydration — which could lead to mistakes.
“Prime Energy, sold in a can, dropped in 2023 and contains a comparable amount of caffeine to other top-selling energy drinks, all falling within the legal limit of the countries it’s sold in,” a representative for Prime shared in a statement. “It complied with all FDA guidelines before hitting the market and states clearly on packaging, as well as in marketing materials, that it is an energy drink and is not made for anyone under the age of 18.”