Jake Paul Believes COVID Is ‘a Hoax’ and ‘98% of News Is Fake’
The popular YouTuber turned boxer spoke with Marlow Stern about his upcoming fight, his coronavirus house parties, creating “content” during the George Floyd protests, and more.
It’s everyday bro, with the Disney Channel flow. With those eight unmistakable words, I was thrust into the chaotic world of Jake Paul—YouTube star, Disney Channel castoff, and aspiring rapper. A friend had sent me the music video for the song, titled “It’s Everyday Bro,” along with the following question: You see this shit?
I did, and down the rabbit hole I went. A native of Westlake, Ohio, Paul is the younger brother (by two years) of Logan Paul, who is perhaps best known for a grotesque stunt wherein he filmed a corpse at Aokigahara, known as Japan’s “suicide forest,” and posted it to YouTube. Like big bro, Paul amassed millions of followers on Vine via viral stunts, before bringing his talents to YouTube, where over 20 million people tune in to his antics (an additional 11.8 million tag along on TikTok). He’s the ringleader of Team 10, an influencer collaborative, and that aforementioned “rap” video has attracted more than 275 million views.
But in the last few years, Paul’s name has been synonymous with controversy. First came the neighbors in his Los Angeles enclave who contemplated filing a class-action lawsuit against him over the pranks, ragers, and other incredibly loud shenanigans at his mansion. Shortly thereafter, Disney and Paul, who’d starred on their series Bizaardvark, parted ways. Then TMZ ran a video of Paul dropping the N-word in a freestyle rap. In 2020 alone, he’s been embroiled in a strange hotel altercation with Zayn Malik in Las Vegas; was accused of partaking in a mall riot in Scottsdale during the George Floyd protests for Black lives; had the FBI raid his home and confiscate weapons as part of an investigation; and drew widespread condemnation, including by the mayor, for throwing a massive, maskless party at his Calabasas mansion in July, while COVID-19 cases were spiking across the country.
Like his brother, he’s also become a highly in-demand boxer, TKO-ing fellow influencers Deji and AnEsonGib, and this Saturday, Nov. 28, squaring off against former NBA star Nate Robinson on the undercard of a Mike Tyson vs. Roy Jones Jr. showdown. It’s his biggest bout to date, and may help lay the groundwork for one day facing down his dream opponent: Conor McGregor.
I’ve been fascinated by the influence Paul wields, so ahead of the match, I spoke with the 23-year-old about his career and various controversies. Things got a bit heated.
Congrats on the fight coming up. How long have you been training for this thing?
Um, I’ve been in camp since the start of quarantine, because when everything went into lockdown we couldn’t go outside and do anything, and I was in lockdown with my coach, so we just started training every single day. So it’s been seven, eight, nine months now.
I’m curious why you got into boxing? Was it something you always wanted to explore, or what gave you the urge?
I grew up playing all the sports—football, basketball, and wrestling. I was a really big wrestler in high school, and was a state wrestler in Ohio with a really good record—probably had over 150 wrestling matches—so I’ve always loved combat sports, and I grew up watching UFC and boxing. When I got older, these YouTubers love to talk shit to each other, so when that started happening we were like, “You know what? Let’s put some gloves on.” For me it made perfect sense, because it took me back to my competitive high-school self, and I’ve fallen in love with boxing over the last three years. I’ve had two fights already, and it’s something that’s really helped me stay focused on becoming the best version of myself.
How do you feel it’s made you a better version of yourself?
When you’re boxing, it’s the ultimate form of sacrifice. Everything you’re doing, you have to be focused. You’re on a regimen—training two times a day, eating the healthiest possible food—and everything about you is completely in work mode. You’re in this stage where you just want to accomplish and defeat everything. So for me, it’s helped me in my life with my mental health, my physical health, and my overall business, just working non-stop 24-7. In L.A., there are so many distractions, but when you’re boxing you have to be focused and locked-in, and put all the Los Angeles partying stuff to the side.
I’ve watched your boxing matches and from a viewer’s standpoint, it seems like you’re trying to prove something out there. Is there a part of you that wanted to prove to people that you were tough, and more than the Disney star or guy who makes fun online videos?
A hundred percent. I definitely have a chip on my shoulder. I’ve always been a massive underdog since I was a kid. Nobody’s expected me to succeed, and so I’m definitely fighting with that chip on my shoulder, and fighting to prove that, yo, I’m a real pro boxer, and people have to take me seriously. My goal is to fight Conor McGregor and some of the UFC’s biggest fighters in the boxing ring. I’m going out there to prove that I’m good enough to make those fights happen, and I’m good enough to beat those guys. That’s where my career and this boxing stuff is going to go for the next three years.
How far away are you from a potential McGregor bout? And have there been any preliminary talks or whispers about that?
There’ve been some whispers, but you know, I have to get more fights under my belt and prove myself. The beauty of this is that, in two fights, I’m already one of the biggest pay-per-view sellers for boxing, and Conor McGregor is also on that list, so if it eventually makes sense for us to come together and do a fight, it’s going to sell massive amounts of pay-per-view. At the end of the day, this is a business, and at the end of the day, Conor McGregor is a better shit-talker than everyone—except for me. He’s out cheating on his wife and doing all these crazy things, so I think he’s gonna come around and need this fight eventually.
Speaking of McGregor, I’m sure you’ve seen the recent comment by Floyd Mayweather who said, “These YouTube girls better find some Barbie dolls to play with because I’m not the one for the kid games.” What did you think of that?
You know, it doesn’t bother me. At the end of the day, he’s like 5-foot-4, so he’s actually the little kid here, and obviously he just wants attention. He’s fiftysomething years old. He should be in retirement. So he just wants to get relevancy by talking about the YouTube kids, because we’re the ones popping off right now.
Although, Mike Tyson had some very nice things to say about you on Steve-O’s podcast. He said you looked good in the ring, and that it took balls for you to go out there with such little experience and fight in front of a big audience.
I saw that! I saw what Mike said, and it meant a lot to me. It’s an honor to be on a Mike Tyson undercard in the first place. If you had told the 12-year-old Jake Paul, hey, you are gonna be fighting on the same card as Mike Tyson and Lil Wayne is gonna be performing, I wouldn’t believe you. Lil Wayne was my idol growing up, and I’m from a small town, and this fight means the world to me.
Since Lil Wayne was your idol growing up, how did you feel about his photo opp with President Trump?
Um… you know, I don’t wanna go down that road!
You didn’t find that good or disappointing at all?
I just… don’t wanna go down that road. [Laughs]
OK fair. So looking at your opponents, is KSI next?
He’s ducking me and is afraid to fight me—it’s apparent—so there’s other opponents and bigger names than him that want to fight me. There’s Austin McBroom, and my brother wants to fight me. He’s been calling me out. So there’s bigger fights out there than the KSI fight.
Thus far you’ve only fought people of color. I’m curious if you think there’s a racial component to these fights, pitting you against people of color?
No, definitely not. The last guy I fought, [Ali Eson] Gib, was from the Middle East, so I don’t think that has anything to do with it.
You know, I’ve been keeping track of your career for a bit and have read a lot of negative reports in the media about you, but of course haven’t spoken with you before. So I wanted to unpack some of these “controversies,” because I’m curious what your perspective is on these things that have happened in your life. One of the things a lot of your younger fans remember you for is Bizaardvark, the Disney Channel series. Why were you fired from that show? Because a piece in The Hollywood Reporter claimed it was due to the KTLA news segment showing that your neighborhood was up in arms over the noise and disturbances from your home.
It’s funny because, for the last three years I’ve sort of ran with everyone saying, “Oh, he got fired,” just because I think it’s funnier to say, “I got fired by Disney,” but in reality it was a mutual decision to split from each other. They weren’t paying me enough. I was making millions more—per week—than I was on that show, and it was a mutual decision for us to split up. Everyone I worked with on that show was fantastic, but from a business standpoint it didn’t make sense. I was aging up and wanted more money.
How much were they paying you?
Like pennies on the dollar. For most people it would be good money and all that stuff, but with YouTube, my merchandising companies, and boxing even, it wasn’t sufficient enough anymore.
Shortly after that, TMZ posted a video of you rapping and using the N-word. How do you feel about that incident, and the backlash it received?
I wouldn’t like to comment on that.
Another thing you received a lot of backlash for is the incident in the Arizona mall during the George Floyd protests. Prior to this interview, I watched the video a number of times and read several reports surrounding the episode, and from my perspective watching the videos, it looked like people in your crew were both shooting fireworks at the mall and also destroying some store windows inside of it. Do you feel you conducted yourself appropriately in that situation?
Yeah, so none of those people were my friends. I think that is the biggest issue, because when people look at it they think those are my friends, when in reality it wasn’t. I had nothing to do with them. I was merely a reporter simply, like you are in this call, wanting to capture, document, and record what was happening. Obviously in hindsight I don’t think I should have been there, but I’m a content creator, and at the time I was like, “Damn, these people are going fucking apeshit. This is some great content. I want to show this to the world.” So that was sort of my mindset on it. But I had nothing to do with any of the people who were breaking stuff down or shooting fireworks off.
At the same time, you must realize that due to your popularity and celebrity, when you enter a mall in a situation like that, it’s going to be an incitement. It’s going to bring more people inside the mall and raise the temperature.
Um… that’s not my job. My job isn’t to control what other people are doing. I’m not anyone’s dad.
I’m wondering if you can comment on the subsequent FBI raid, because reports said that they confiscated a number of weapons from your home, and it seemed to be related to the Arizona incident. You’re currently under federal investigation, is that right?
Um… yeah. I’m not able to comment on that.
OK, that makes sense given that it’s an ongoing federal investigation.
Have you ever had the FBI watching you?
I can’t say that I have. Are they watching you right now?
I’m not sure, man.
Is that something that’s made you a little paranoid?
Nope. Not at all. When you’re innocent, it feels good. And if they are, they’re probably listening to this call, so what’s up FBI!
I gotta say, I saw all this stuff over the summer and it did piss me off a little bit. You were hosting these giant maskless parties at your home in Calabasas as COVID cases were spiking in the state, and it drew a bunch of neighbor complaints and condemnation from the mayor. And when Insider asked you about it in late July, you said, “I personally am not the type of person who’s gonna sit around and not live my life.” Do you regret those comments, and are you still living by that mentality?
Yeah, I mean… it’s time for us to open up. Obviously it’s a controversial subject, but it’s time for our nation to open up and go back to normal.
You really think that?
Yeah. A hundred percent. There are people losing jobs, there are small businesses who are going bankrupt, there are millions of people who are unemployed right now, people are turning to alcohol and drugs to cope with everything that’s going on. This is the most detrimental thing to our society. COVID cases are at less than 1 percent, and I think the disease is a hoax.
You think the disease is a hoax? It’s killed about 260,000 people so far this year.
Ugh. Yeah, and so has the flu.
No. The flu has only killed a fraction of that, and we also have a vaccine for the flu.
The flu kills between 20,000 and 70,000 people a year. And we have a mass-produced vaccine for it.
Don’t we have a vaccine for COVID?
Not yet. They’re hopeful we will soon. It’s been approved by the FDA based on early-stage trials but it hasn’t been introduced to the market yet. So they’re hopeful that there will be a vaccine out very soon, although distribution also poses a big problem. But I want to talk about why you think COVID is a “hoax.”
I don’t have to elaborate.
You don’t want to elaborate on that?
[Deep sigh] No.
So I guess it stands to reason that if you think it’s a hoax, you’ve still been throwing these big parties at your house?
Ugh, no. I’ve been training for this fight that’s coming up.
OK. There are all these negative reports in the media about you, and I’m wondering how you feel about the coverage you’ve received. What do you say to people who think you’re an asshole?
I think the media will paint people however they want that person to be painted. I think that until you meet someone in person and get to know them as a human being, you can’t listen to what an article says. For example, on this call you’ve only asked me about my controversies and the bad things I’ve done, but you haven’t asked me about the million dollars I’ve raised for kids, all the Make-a-Wishes I’ve done, and the millions of kids I’ve inspired to chase their dreams. You haven’t asked me a single thing about that. So you are actually the epitome of what the media is, because obviously bad news travels faster.
I’ve only asked you about these controversies in the last six minutes of this interview. We spent the first 10 minutes of the interview discussing your boxing skills, and how you got to where you are today in the ring. Do you think these things should be off-limits for me to ask you?
No, I don’t think they should be off-limits. I think it’s, like, a typical reporter trying to probe an answer out of someone to get a viral article, essentially. Um… and I think that if someone out there thinks that they can understand who a person is and what they stand for and know who they are by reading an article about them, then that person is a fucking idiot.
So you think my questions have been unfair to you.
No, I never said that. This is what I’m saying. You’re [asking] leading questions and so on and so forth because you want to tell a certain story about me. You got on this call with an agenda of exactly how you’re going to tell this story.
Just to be completely transparent here, I got on this call because I was offered the interview by your team and I was curious. I’d read all the stories about you, and I wanted to learn more. And I wanted to learn it from you. I wanted to hear you address these incidents and see what you thought about them.
But how does me addressing those incidents—which by the way, if you were actually reading about me, you would have seen that I had addressed those incidents before, so you’re basically just asking me the same questions. How does asking about these incidents help you learn more about me? You didn’t ask me, “Yo, do you have any hobbies?” “What are you like as a person?” “What is your daily routine?” “Do you call your mom?” “Do you have friends?”
You want me to ask you if you have friends or call your mom?
I mean, if you actually wanted to learn more about me, yeah, those are the types of questions you would ask. You would ask, “What is a day in the life of Jake Paul?” “What are you like when the cameras aren’t rolling?” Those are some questions you would have asked if you actually wanted to learn more about me.
Again, we spent the first 10 minutes of this interview talking about your boxing, which is a hobby of yours, and how you got to this place where you are boxing, and what inspired you to do so. And I don’t think these questions have been unfair.
They haven’t. That’s not what I’m saying. You keep on putting words into my mouth. I never said these questions are unfair—I’m very pleased with your questions—I’m just saying that the thesis of your interview isn’t adding up. If you wanted to learn more about me, you wouldn’t ask about the incidents.
If I wanted to learn more about you, I wouldn’t ask about the incidents?
Those incidents have nothing to do with my character.
OK, but what I’m saying is, I’ve followed your content and the incidents, and these incidents have garnered a lot of headlines, so I think it’s important for people who do want to know and understand you better to have you explain your side of these things.
I guess that’s the issue, is that people will never, like… I guess that’s the issue with all of media, is that the way for people to understand someone is never through an article. I guess that’s what the issue is. Like, I can’t ever change someone’s opinion on me based on this interview.
I think you could. I think people’s opinions are changed by a lot of stuff. A lot of people are very good at schmoozing through these things and making people like them more.
That’s what I’m saying—I’m not like that, and I think that’s the issue. [Laughs] I think a lot of celebrities will lie and say shit to get people to like them. I think that’s the issue.
I hear you. I suppose this is why you’ve managed to garner a dedicated following, because you don’t schmooze.
Yeah. I think people want authenticity. You know, in 2020 there’s no one that’s authentic anymore, and everyone is just doing shit to be liked by people. I know people who are on that anti-COVID thing, saying, “Don’t go to parties!” “You assholes!” “I can’t believe you guys are throwing parties, and you’re not having any masks!” “You’re putting millions of lives in danger!” And that same celebrity is at the party the next day. They’re just doing that shit to get people to like them.
So you’re saying that you’re seeing a lot of virtue-signaling among members of the influencer community?
I would say 90 percent of them are fake as fuck, yeah.
That’s interesting. OK let’s talk about TikTok. How do you feel about that more short-form mode of content creation?
I think TikTok is dope as fuck. I love the content on there. I love the creators. I think it’s the best app out there right now for content to really engage people. I have 12 million followers on TikTok, and the audience there really loves to consume. I think it’s great for social media, and it’s an app that’s going to help create the next wave of social media. Instagram is dying out, YouTube is dying out, so TikTok is really at the forefront of social media right now.
Why do you think Instagram and YouTube are dying out? Is it because they’re not providing enough compensation to content creators?
I think that—but also it’s mainly their algorithms. I think there’s so much content being posted that it’s such a polluted space, and there’s 10 times more content every single day. The algorithms make it so much harder for creators to reach their audience, and because of that, it discourages creators to want to create content on that platform. That’s where the vicious cycle comes in.
There was a big controversy over the summer where Trump tried to ban TikTok. How did you feel about that whole episode, with Trump accusing TikTok of having nefarious connections to China?
I didn’t think it was legit. There’s so much technology and things in place where if the United States really felt threatened, they could handle it in a different way.
I gotcha. I wanted to go back to the pandemic, because you mentioned a lot of influencers are being full of shit right now—saying one thing on social media to try and garner sympathy points and then doing another—but generally, how do you think people should be conducting themselves right now during the pandemic?
I think it depends. I think if someone’s at-risk, they should quarantine. Obviously, the coronavirus has killed people. I think if you’re at-risk, be careful. If you’re around people who are at-risk, be careful. Quarantine, do everything right, and live in a bubble, essentially. But I think if you’re young, healthy, and don’t have any health issues, I don’t think anything should be different. These kids are losing out on education, they’re missing their graduations, they’re missing out on sports, kids are losing out on scholarships, restaurants, everything. Even this boxing match is something that could be 10 times more legendary and more fun if there was an audience able to attend. A hundred percent of our nation is shut down due to the 1 percent who’s at risk, so that’s what I meant about how COVID doesn’t make sense to me. It doesn’t add up. There’s something more behind it that the government’s not telling us, and to me it just sucks, because so many kids’ lives are being affected by this because we’re worried about the 1 percent who are gonna die. And it sucks. I don’t want those people to die, and nobody wants them to die, but it is the process of life. And shit happens, so… I don’t know.
There are a couple of issues here. When young people get this disease, even though they’re not dying at the same rate as older people, they’re still getting hospitalized, which then is overwhelming the health-care system and not providing beds or equipment to older people who seriously need it. They can also give it to others. And the other thing is, they did a study of Big Ten athletes who came down with COVID-19 and who had no previous cardiac issues, and they found that 15 percent of those people came down with myocarditis, which is inflammation of the heart that can lead to cardiac arrest. So we don’t know the long-term impact that this can have on even younger people, so wouldn’t the best thing be for things to shut down, the government provide support for people, and everyone stay at home for a month or so?
Um… I don’t know. I think that’s… that’s above my pay grade, and if it was something I would be in charge of, you know, I would make the right decision. But, um… I just don’t know. I don’t think anyone has the right answers, and I think that’s the issue: No one really knows what’s going on. But I guess that’s America in 2020.
We do know what the health professionals have said, but you’re basically saying that you don’t trust what they’re saying?
Um… I don’t think we do know who the health professionals are. People like yourself, or people who go on Twitter and read articles all day, you know, 98 percent of news is fake, so how do we know what’s actually real, and what we’re actually supposed to do? I see people on Twitter complaining and being all upset, and saying this person knows this or that, but no one actually knows what to believe. Medical professionals have also said that masks do absolutely nothing to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Yes they have. Yes they have. You’re arrogant. You’re very arrogant for saying that they haven’t said that.
I think you’re referring to a recent Danish study…
…No I’m not. I’m referring to dozens and dozens of my medical friends—doctors, people with PhDs—who say masks do absolutely nothing to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Oh, come on. That’s not true though. What doctors are saying this?
I’m not saying it’s true or not! I’m not saying it’s true or not, and I’m not here to have a debate with you about it, I’m just telling you what I’ve been told. So, how do we know what information we’re supposed to believe or not? I think the problem with this call is, you’re trying to make everything black or white, when in 2020 everything is very gray. But you’re a reporter, and you want clickbait, and you want answers, so you want everything to be black or white, when in fact it’s not that, so that’s where you need to open up your mind, as someone who controls media, and influences a lot of what people read and say and breathe and do.
Well, you influence a lot of what people say and breathe and do too. Probably more than I do.
No, definitely more than you do. I’ve never even heard of you.
Right. So you have a responsibility too to your followers. And we’re just having a conversation here. You’ve accused me of trying to come up with “clickbait” and a bunch of other stuff, but we’re just talking about your thoughts on things.
That’s what your faniacal [sic] reporter-brain tells you, but you know the truth of that. You know what I’m saying? You’re thriving off of this.
I’m thriving off of this?
Yeah. You love it. You’re having the best day ever right now, because of this interview.
Oh, I don’t know about that.