YouTuber Sam Pepper has faced backlash since posting a prank video two days ago, in which he stages a fake kidnapping and murder.
Pepper’s video, uploaded with the title “Killing Best Friend Prank,” features fellow digital personalities Colby Brock and Sam Golbach. In the five-minute video, Brock and Golbach are kidnapped, and Golbach watches as a masked gunman apparently shoots his best friend. Although Brock knew about the prank and played along, Golbach had no idea.
The video faced immediate criticism, and a petition calling for YouTube to deactivate Pepper’s channel has racked up more than 117,000 signatures. A number of prominent YouTube stars, including Hannah Hart, Andrea Russett, and Finn and Jack Harries, have also criticized the video and called for signatures.
Golbach took to his shared Twitter account with Brock to issue a statement about the video. “A lot of people are speaking on MY behalf,” Golbach wrote. “People are saying: ‘Sam has nightmares, Sam has PTSD, Sam can’t walk down streets’ and no one is coming to me about it. I’m not traumatized, I don’t hate either Colby or Sam. After filming, we spent two weeks talking about the video, and seeing the final product/comments from our friends, I realized it’s completely in sync with Colby and I’s message we are trying to spread, ‘Life is short. Appreciate every moment. And especially treasure your friends and make sure they know how important they are to you.’”
“We realize this isn’t a video to make people laugh, instead it was supposed to show a true friendship,” Golbach continued.
Pepper’s only response has been to retweet Golbach’s message, and he did not immediately respond to EW’s request for comment.