Coinbase’s top lawyer issued an apology Thursday to the PepeCoin (PEPE) community, capping off a frenzied 24-hour period during which the memecoin’s diehard fan base instigated a vocal campaign against the major crypto exchange.
Fans and holders of PEPE were upset at Coinbase for describing the original Pepe the Frog meme—on which the popular coin is based—as having been “co-opted as a hate symbol by alt-right groups” in a Wednesday newsletter.
“We screwed up and we are sorry,” Coinbase Chief Legal Officer Paul Grewal tweeted Thursday. “Yesterday, we shared an overview of the PEPE meme coin to provide a fact-based picture of a trending topic. This did not provide the whole picture of the history of the meme and we apologize to the community.”
The acknowledgement by Coinbase leadership comes after the hashtag “#DeleteCoinbase” trended on Twitter, with crypto influencers decrying the newsletter’s characterization of Pepe the Frog as involved with the alt-right as “fraud” and “manipulation.”
Pepe the Frog was originally created by artist Matt Furie as an innocuous animated frog character, featured in the 2005 comic, “Boy’s Club.” Over the course of the 2010s, Pepe’s likeness became a popular internet meme, which was later embraced by the alt-right on forums such as 4Chan and particularly by white supremacists during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Furie subsequently, however, engaged in multiple lawsuits to reclaim Pepe from those associations, notably winning a settlement against far-right provocateur Alex Jones’ show Infowars in 2019 over unauthorized use of the Pepe image in alt-right media.
Over the same period, Pepe has enjoyed a massive resurgence in the crypto community, most recently in the form of a viral memecoin.
Launched last month, PepeCoin began as a joke cryptocurrency created in the same vein as Dogecoin. With no official connection to Furie or the original Pepe cartoon character, the near-worthless coin arrived with little fanfare, until a crypto investor bought trillions of PEPE for $250. Riding rising interest in the coin, the investor turned that sum into $1.02 million.
PEPE immediately became an overnight sensation, blowing past a $1 billion dollar market cap after being launched on Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, and surging Ethereum gas prices to highs not seen in a year. The coin is still worth well under a single cent, though, and has fallen over 61% in value since last week’s high, according to CoinGecko.
Nonetheless, the Pepecoin community appeared back in high spirits Thursday after Coinbase’s apology, with some community members depicting Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong as re-committed to the meme token faith.
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