Free speech advocate Suzanne Nossel said Thursday she found John Cena’s apology to China “troubling” after he named Taiwan the country during a promotional interview for his upcoming film “Fast and Furious 9”.
“It felt like a forced admission,” Pen America CEO Nossel told CNBC’s The News with Shepard Smith. “This clear feeling that he’s under tremendous pressure, that what could hardly have been a slip of the tongue, is leading to potentially draconian consequences for the film, for his own career, is an example of this very heavy hand and the pressure that the Chinese exercise when someone crosses them. “
Pen America aims to defend human rights and freedom of expression around the world.
Cena apologized on Chinese social media Tuesday. “I have to say now that it is very, very, very, very, very, very important,” said the film star 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. While the US does not officially recognize Taiwan as a country, it does support the Taiwanese government in a number of informal ways.
The self-governing island is China’s most sensitive territorial problem and a major source of disputes with Washington that are required under US law to help the island defend itself.
Nossel added that Hollywood studios should be more transparent about who is funding them and what proportion of the profits are made in China.
“I think if something like this happens, John Cena should have the studio and filmmakers’ support not only to effectively crouch and apologize so subserviently to seemingly save himself,” said Nossel.
Universal’s most recent edition in the “Fast and Furious” franchise started at a massive $ 162 million in eight markets including China, Korea and Hong Kong.
Neither NBCUniversal nor the Chinese Embassy could be reached 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.