Rap Genius Co-Founder Resigns After Comments About Alleged Santa Barbara Shooting Suspect’s Manifesto

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By: / May 27, 2014

Rap Genius co-founder Mahbod Moghadam is leaving the site after making inappropriate comments about the Santa Barbara suspect’s manifesto.

The alleged shooter, Elliot O. Rodger, a 22-year-old student at Santa Barbara City College, was said to have killed six people on campus Friday night (May 23) and reportedly posted an 141-page autobiography along with a chilling video as “retribution” against women who had rejected him just before allegedly committing suicide. Authorities say he was found dead with a bullet wound to the head in his black BMW.

After posting the manifesto to their own site, Rap Genius’ Moghdam made several controversial annotations about the manifesto, saying it was “beautifully written” and “artful”. He also made eyebrow-raising remarks about the suspect’s sister, saying “Elliot barely mentions his sister Georgia throughout the book!” and adding “MY GUESS: his sister is smoking hot.”

This prompted immediate backlash on social media against the site, which was founded in 2009 and became popular for allowing users to annotate song lyrics to prove meaning and interpretation. Rap Genius has raked in over $17 million in funding, according to the New York Times.

The site’s co-founder and CEO, Tom Lehman, wrote about Moghdam’s resignation in a statement on the site Monday (May 26).

“Almost all the annotations were at least attempting a close reading – they were genuinely, though imperfectly, trying to add context to the text and make it easier to understand,” Lehman wrote. “However, Mahbod Moghadam, one of my co-founders, annotated the piece with annotations that not only didn’t attempt to enhance anyone’s understanding of the text, but went beyond that into gleeful insensitivity and misogyny. All of which is contrary to everything we’re trying to accomplish at Rap Genius.”

Lehman continued, “And Mahbod, our original community leader, is no exception. In light of this, Mahbod has resigned – both in his capacity as an employee of the company, and as a member of our board of directors, effective immediately.”

Following the annotations, Moghdam also issued the following statement to Gawker, apologizing for his comments.

“I was fascinated by the fact that a text was associated with such a heartbreaking crime, especially since Elliot is talking about my neighborhood growing up,” Moghdam said. “I got carried away with making the annotations and making any comment about his sister was in horrible taste, thankfully the rap genius community edits out my poor judgement, I am very sorry for writing it.”

Last November, Rap Genius also came under fire after music publishers served lyric sites with takedown notices in an anti-piracy campaign.