The creator and stars of the hit Netflix show Beef have issued a statement in response to the growing criticism over artist and cast member David Choe, who told a detailed story of sexual assault he later said was fictional during a podcast interview in 2014.
In a statement to Variety, creator Lee Sung Jin and stars Ali Wong and Steven Yeun, who also served as executive producers on the show, said the story was potentially hurtful while also defending Choe.
“The story David Choe fabricated nine years ago is undeniably hurtful and extremely disturbing,” they told Variety. “We do not condone this story in any way, and we understand why this has been so upsetting and triggering. We’re aware David has apologized in the past for making up this horrific story, and we’ve seen him put in the work to get the mental health support he needed over the last decade to better himself and learn from his mistakes.”
Video of Choe graphically describing raping a woman was removed online due to copyright claims after the footage of the episode of the podcast DVDASA went viral on Twitter last week.
The Los Angeles–based graffiti artist has received attention for his role on Beef as Isaac, the cousin of Yeun’s character Danny, as well as his title card artworks for the show. Jin told The Today Show that Choe was invited to audition after consulting Yeun and Wong, who are also friends of the artist.
Sometime around Beef’s debut earlier this month, Reveal reporter Aura Bogado posted a video of Choe speaking on the DVDASA podcast to Twitter. The tweet quickly went viral and Choe’s controversial comments received additional attention in Hannah Bae’s review of the show for the San Francisco Chronicle.
In the video, Choe tells co-host and porn actress Asa Akira about a massage with a masseuse he called “Rose” where he said he forced her to perform oral sex. At one point, Akira said, “You raped her.” Later in the episode, Choe appeared to jokingly call himself a “successful rapist.” A conversation during the podcast about “rapey behavior” vs “rape” ended with Choe stating “I just want to make it clear that I admit that that’s rapey behavior, but I am not a rapist.”
Several days after the podcast aired in 2014, Choe responded to allegations on the show’s website, stating that he was not a rapist and declared DVDASA to be “a complete extension of my art.”
“If I am guilty of anything, it’s bad storytelling in the style of douche,” he said, adding, “We create stories and tell tales. It’s not a news show. It’s not a representation of my reality. It’s not the place to come for reliable information about me or my life. It’s my version of reality, it’s art that sometimes offends people. I’m sorry if anyone believed that the stories were fact. They were not!”
Other instances of Choe telling stories about rape, first reported by Hyperallergic, include a 2009 magazine feature that included blog post excerpts from when the artist visited China for a solo exhibition. “I had so much jizz on my brain, I mentally skull fucked and raped every woman in sight, I didn’t [sic] know what to do,” Choe wrote.
In 2010, Choe starred in a Vice Media online series called How to Hitchhike Across America: Thumbs Up. In the first episode, Choe referred to his previous hitchhiking days by saying, “I only almost got raped twice, so hopefully that won’t happen.”
Prior to Beef, Choe’s comments on DVDASA prompted a backlash to a different artistic project in 2017, when he was commissioned by a real estate company for an outdoor mural in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. As a result of Choe’s involvement, the mural was tagged with the word “rapist, and a protest was organized at the site. In response, Choe wrote a long statement on Instagram, citing his mental illness for the comments on DVDASA.