HPB removes potentially offensive Pepe the Frog meme from its video

A screenshot posted by the website shows Pepe the Frog appearing in a corner of the frame as actor Chua En Lai interacts with members of the public.
A screenshot posted by the website shows Pepe the Frog appearing in a corner of the frame as actor Chua En Lai interacts with members of the public.PHOTO: SCREENSHOT FROM COCONUTS.CO

SINGAPORE - The Health Promotion Board (HPB) has removed a Pepe the Frog meme from one of its videos, after a report flagged the cartoon character as a racist symbol.

News and lifestyle website Coconuts.co reported on Tuesday (Oct 23) on the frog's appearance in a recent HPB video promoting the National Steps Challenge.

A screenshot posted by the website shows Pepe the Frog appearing in a corner of the frame as actor Chua En Lai interacts with members of the public.

Coconuts then listed examples of Pepe being used by the far-right movement in the United State. The frog is also listed by the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish non-governmental organisation, as a hate symbol.

In response to queries, the HPB told The Straits Times on Wednesday that it has thanked Coconuts Singapore for pointing out how the image has come to be used in the US.

"Neither we, nor our video producer, were aware of the various interpretations of the image," said the board.

"In consideration of the feedback received and to ensure that there is no misconception about the intent of the image, the video was taken down to remove the frog image from the video."

A new video without the frog has since been uploaded.

According to American broadcaster CNN, Pepe the Frog first appeared on the Internet in 2005, as part of artist Matt Furie's Boy's Club cartoons.

The Internet was soon captivated by the frog's distinctive bemused smirk and Pepe became a popular meme to express different emotions, such as sadness and anger, as well as experiences, like feeling good or bad about something.

But the frog's image took a political turn in the 2016 US presidential election campaign, after far-right groups appropriated it as Adolf Hitler, a Klansman and racist caricatures, among other representations, reported CNN.