Rap Genius Co-Founder Resigns Over Comments About Killer's Manifesto

Mahbod Moghadam

Rap Genius Co-Founder Resigns Over Comments About Killer's Manifesto

Mahbod Moghadam steps down after making controversial annotations surrounding UCSB mass shooter Elliot Rodger.

Published May 27, 2014

Mahbod Moghadam, one of the co-founders of RapGenius.com has stepped down after making comments construed as support for Elliot Rodger, the man accused of killing 10 people near the University of California, Santa Barbara campus last week before taking his own life.

Besides a written proclamation, Rodger posted a final YouTube video explaining that he was about to "slaughter" sorority girls in particular as retaliation for being turned down for sexual encounters and dates. As reported by Gawker.com Sunday (May 25), Moghadam published Rodger's 141-page manifesto on the Rap Genius site annotating that some of the accused mass murderer's words were "beautifully written" and "artful." 

Moghadam also noticed that Rodger made little mention of his sister Georgia in his writing. Since Georgia and Rodger reportedly didn't get along, Moghadam concluded that the sister must've been "smokin hot."

In a statement to Valleywag, the entrepreneur explained that he was "fascinated" by Rodger's writings because "the text was associated with such a heartbreaking crime." What also drew him in was the fact that the 23-year-old was talking about Moghadam's childhood neighborhood. "I got carried away with making the annotations and making any comment about his sister was in horrible taste," he admitted. "Thankfully the Rap Genius community edits out my poor judgement, I am very sorry for writing it."

Rap Genius CEO and fellow co-founder Tom Lehman released a statement via the site Monday, announcing Moghadam's departure. There was an apparent "internal debate" over whether or not Rodger's words should've been published on the site in the first place. "Ultimately we decided that it was worthy of close reading – understanding the psychology of people who do horrible things can help us to better understand our society and ourselves," Lehman said. 

"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," he continued. "All of which is contrary to everything we're trying to accomplish at Rap Genius."

Lehman pointed out that the site's other community leaders "would have to step down" for the same act. "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," he said.

He added that his friend is a "a brilliant, creative, complicated person with a ton of love in his heart," and thanked him for contributing to RG. "I am grateful for all he has done to help Rap Genius succeed," said Lehman. "But I cannot let him compromise the Rap Genius mission – a mission that remains almost as delicate and inchoate as it was when we three founders decided to devote our lives to it almost 5 years ago."

Losing a co-founder is the latest blow to the Big Apple-based startup, which posts lyrics and other stories for public annotation. Last December, Google wiped the site from its search results over an alleged SEO scheme to increase traffic. A month earlier, RG was accused of illegally posting lyrics.  

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 (Photo: Brian Ach/Getty Images  for TechCrunch)

Written by Latifah Muhammad


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