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Rolling Stone co-founder Jann Wenner removed from Rock Hall leadership after controversial comments

<i>Kevin Mazur/WireImage/Getty Images</i><br/>Jann Wenner at the 2017 Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony in New York.
Kevin Mazur/WireImage/Getty Images
Jann Wenner at the 2017 Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony in New York.

By Alli Rosenbloom, CNN

(CNN) — Jann Wenner, co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine, has been removed from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation’s board after facing widespread criticism for comments he made in a New York Times interview published Friday about female and Black musicians.

“Jann Wenner has been removed from the board of directors of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation,” a representative for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation told CNN in a statement on Sunday.

Wenner spoke with the Times about his upcoming book “The Masters,” which features interviews he conducted with artists such as John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger and others while at the helm of Rolling Stone.

In the interview, he spoke about his decision to not include interviews with women and Black artists, and his remarks on the topic were widely criticized.

“The people had to meet a couple criteria, but it was just kind of my personal interest and love of them,” he said, adding “Insofar as the women, just none of them were as articulate enough on this intellectual level.”

He continued, “Stevie Wonder, genius, right? I suppose when you use a word as broad as ‘masters,’ the fault is using that word. Maybe Marvin Gaye, or Curtis Mayfield? I mean, they just didn’t articulate at that level.”

“For public relations sake, maybe I should have gone and found one Black and one woman artist to include here that didn’t measure up to that same historical standard, just to avert this kind of criticism,” he told the outlet. “Maybe I’m old-fashioned and I don’t give a (expletive) or whatever. I wish in retrospect I could have interviewed Marvin Gaye. Maybe he’d have been the guy. Maybe Otis Redding, had he lived, would have been the guy.”

Through a spokesperson for Little, Brown and Company, publisher of “The Masters,” Wenner told CNN, “In my interview with The New York Times I made comments that diminished the contributions, genius and impact of Black and women artists and I apologize wholeheartedly for those remarks.”

“‘The Masters’ is a collection of interviews I’ve done over the years that seemed to me to best represent an idea of rock ‘n’ roll’s impact on my world; they were not meant to represent the whole of music and its diverse and important originators but to reflect the high points of my career and interviews I felt illustrated the breadth and experience in that career,” Wenner added. “They don’t reflect my appreciation and admiration for myriad totemic, world-changing artists whose music and ideas I revere and will celebrate and promote as long as I live. I totally understand the inflammatory nature of badly chosen words and deeply apologize and accept the consequences.”

Wenner founded Rolling Stone magazine with music critic Ralph J. Gleason in 1967 and put the legendary rock magazine up for sale in 2017. He was inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as an individual in 2004, and is a co-founder of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation.

On Monday, Rolling Stone posted a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, saying, “Jann Wenner’s recent statements to the New York Times do not represent the values and practices of today’s Rolling Stone. Jann Wenner has not been directly involved in our operations since 2019.”

“Our purpose, especially since his departure, has been to tell stories that reflect the diversity of voices and experiences that shape our world. At Rolling Stone’s core is the understanding that music above all can bring us together, not divide us,” the statement read.

“The Masters” is scheduled to be released on September 26.

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