The new Netflix and A24 series Beef, starring Ali Wong and Steven Yeun, has become a viral sensation since it premiered all 10 episodes on April 6. The comedy-drama, about a road-rage incident gone haywire, has garnered plenty of praise for its lead performances, the show’s depiction of church culture and even a Hoobastank needle drop. However, a resurfaced podcast clip featuring one of Beef’s supporting actors, David Choe, is casting a shadow over the acclaimed series. And recent efforts to erase the video from social media are making fans even more upset.
Last Thursday, reporter Aura Bogado shared a now-removed video of Choe, who plays Isaac on Beef, on his former podcast DVDASA, describing himself as a “successful rapist.” In the 2014 recording, he tells his co-hosts in graphic detail about the time he received a massage from a Black woman he calls “Rose,” masturbated in front of her and forced her to perform oral sex.
“She’s definitely not into it,” the now-46-year-old says in the clip. “But she’s not stopping it either. I say, ‘Kiss it a little,’ she says, ‘No, all the massage oil is on it,’ and I take the back of her head. And I push it down on my dick, and she doesn’t do it. And I say, ‘Open your mouth, open your mouth,’ and she does it. And I start facefucking her.”
In the video, which Bogado has since reposted from TikTok, one of the podcast’s co-host, porn actress Asa Akira, pushes back against Choe’s upsetting claims. “You’re basically telling us that you’re a rapist right now, and the only way to get your dick hard is rape,” she says. “Yeah,” Choe responds.
This isn’t the first time Choe, a popular New York graffiti artist who’s worked with Vice, CNN, HBO, Hulu and FX before co-starring in Beef, has been called out for his disturbing remarks. After initially receiving backlash for the podcast episode in 2014, he released a statement on DVDASA’s website (that’s no longer active) claiming that the story was actually false.
“If I am guilty of anything, it’s bad storytelling in the style of douche,” he wrote. “Just like many of my paintings are often misinterpreted, the same goes with my show.” He went on to say that the anecdote “was not a representation of [his] reality.”
“I’m sorry if anyone believed that the stories were fact,” he wrote. “They were not!”
In 2017, he wrote another lengthy post on Instagram about the clip, claiming he had “ZERO history of sexual assault.”
In the days since Beef’s release, many Twitter users, in addition to Bogado, have re-discovered the troubling podcast snippet and others—like a conversation where Choe defends Akira hypothetically hooking up with a 13-year-old boy, posted by Brooklyn emcee Nitty Scott. Meanwhile, Canadian restaurateur and author Jen Agg, tweeted that she had known about Choe “being shit for ages.”
Quite glaringly, no one representing the show, including Choe, has responded to the resurfaced incident. Twitter users also noticed that Wong, who’s friends with Choe and plays Amy on Beef, recently locked her Twitter account. (The Daily Beast reached out to representatives for Netflix and A24 for comment.)
Conversation about the controversial artist ramped up again on Sunday when users noticed their tweets of the podcast clip being removed from Twitter. Writer Meecham Whitson Meriweather tweeted that his account was locked after he posted the recording of Choe. Bogado also posted a DMCA notice she received from Twitter Support after they removed her post “on copyright grounds.”
According to the screenshots, the video is owned by the David Young Choe Foundation. Additionally, an audio file of the podcast episode uploaded by writer Melissa Stetten on Google Drive has been removed for violating the site’s terms of service.
Unsurprisingly, these prohibitive measures have only caused a Streisand Effect on social media. Over the past 24 hours, Twitter users, including critics and other verified accounts, have taken Netflix, A24 and others involved with Beef—including Wong and Yeun who are executive producers—to task for hiring Choe despite his past claims. In addition to playing the formerly incarcerated cousin of Yeun’s protagonist Danny on the show, Choe also supplied paintings for the episode’s title cards.
While all parties have been slow to respond to the scandal, Choe’s past comments are particularly not a good look for A24. The independent film and television company came under fire just a few weeks ago after Variety reported sexual-misconduct claims against Sebastian Bear-McClard, who co-produced the Safdie Brothers films Good Time and Uncut Gems. A recent Rolling Stone report alleging disturbing details about Sam Levinson’s forthcoming HBO show The Idol, a co-production with A24, have also put the buzzy, Oscar-winning studio in a negative light.
Overall, the controversy surrounding Choe comes as a disappointment, given the overwhelming success of Beef, as a show created by and starring Asian people. However, the silence from the show’s creators has led to an important discussion online about how much we value representation over issues like sexual assault.