Backlash ensues as Coinbase labels PEPE alt-right hate symbol; Chief Legal Officer Grewal apologizes
The hashtag #DELETECOINBASE is trending as Pepe fans voice anger at claims the character symbolizes bigotry.
Anger has erupted over a Coinbase customer email claiming Pepe represents hate ideology.
Borovik.eth posted a screenshot of the “What you should know about PEPE” portion of the email. It said the meme coin was released three weeks ago and has “a comically huge supply of 420 trillion tokens.”
Moreover, after briefly explaining Pepe’s origins, it stated that the character was “co-opted as a hate symbol by alt-right groups, according to the Anti-Defamation League” (ADL).
The email has triggered an uprising from Pepe fans, who are trending the hashtag #DELETECOINBASE.
Pepe was adopted by alt-right
Pepe’s phenomenal rise upon release saw it climb the meme coin rankings into the third spot by market cap — currently at $674.7 million, behind Shiba Inu and Dogecoin.
Early investors experienced explosive gains, kicking off “meme season” to spawn a glut of newly released meme coins to spike Ethereum transaction fees.
The phenomenon was repeated on Bitcoin, as BRC-20 tokens also took off, taking transaction fees to 24-month highs. Incidentally, a Pepe BRC-20 clone exists but it has a significantly smaller market cap and supply, at $24.2 million and 42,069,000 tokens, respectively — compared to the original Ethereum token.
Pepe the Frog was created by cartoonist Matt Furie, who debuted the character in a comic book called “Boy’s Club” in 2006. Over time, the character gained a following, making Pepe a popular meme character.
According to the ADL, Pepe was “appropriated” by people to communicate “racist, antisemitic or other bigoted themes” — particularly from the “alt-right” white supremacy movement.
Considering the polarized U.S. political landscape, the issue became even more contentious when Donald Trump supporters adopted Pepe during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Commenting on his creation’s alt-right association, Furie played it down as a passing phase — adding that Pepe’s charm will restore his rightful legacy soon enough.
“It’s just a phase, it’s not the first time Pepe has been reclaimed for evil, and no one will care about it come November. I predict that his sly, lovable, and charming status will be intact as early as next week.”
Social media is awash with pushback over Coinbase’s stance toward Pepe. Kenobi said he was waiting on his withdrawals to finish processing before closing his Coinbase account.
“I cannot in good conscience maintain an account with a company who is clearly manipulating markets with their baseless FUD and attack on $pepe.”
Likewise, seacasa assumed a “Gen Z” Coinbase employee wrote the email — which has now “naively dragged” the company down by assuming a blip in the character’s history is still relevant today. He said he would sell his COIN shares if the exchange does not correct this situation.
Cold opted for a more reserved response, saying the claim of hate symbolism was biased because it did not present a balanced account of Pepe’s history.
“The thing is, they didn’t explain any of the positive sides of the story.”
PEPE sunk 15.4% over the last 24 hours to $0.00000163, as a wave of recent rug pulls has re-iterated the dangers of meme coin investing in general.
Post-publication amendment – On May 11, at approximately 17:00 BST, Coinbase’s Chief Legal Officer Paul Grewal apologized in a tweet, stating, “we screwed up,” – he acknowledged that the email presented a one-sided account of Pepe’s history.