Freedom of expression campaigner Suzanne Nossel said on Thursday that she John Cena’s Apology to China “troubling” after calling Taiwan a country during a promotional interview for his upcoming movie, “Fast and Furious 9”.
“It felt like a forced confession,” Nossel, the CEO of nonprofit Pen America, told CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith.” “This clear sense that he is under tremendous pressure, that what was perhaps barely a slip of the tongue, leads to potentially draconian consequences for the film, for his own career, it is illustrative of this very heavy hand and pressure that the Chinese exert when someone gives them crosses.”
Pen America aims to defend human rights and freedom of expression around the world.
Cena apologized on Chinese social media on Tuesday. “I have to say now that it’s very, very, very, very, very, very important,” the film star said in his video message. “I love and respect China and the Chinese. I am very, very sorry for my mistake.”
China claims Taiwan as its own territory. Although the US does not formally recognize Taiwan as a country, it supports the Taiwanese government in several informal ways.
The self-governing island is China’s most sensitive territorial issue and a major source of contention with Washington, which is required by US law to help the island defend itself.
Nossel added that she believes Hollywood studios should be more transparent when it comes to who finances them and what share of the profits is made in China.
“I think when something like this incident happens, John Cena should have the support of the studio and the filmmakers to not just have to effectively scold and make such a submissive apology to seemingly save himself,” Nossel said. .
Universal’s latest installment in the “Fast and Furious” franchise kicked off with a massive $162 million in eight markets, including China, Korea and Hong Kong.
Neither NBCUniversal nor the Chinese embassy were available for comment. A Cena spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
Disclosure: Universal is owned by NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News and CNBC.