‘Beef’ Criticized After Star’s Rape Comments

BEEF, the dark A24 comedy series, was released on Netflix earlier this month to critical acclaim. The streamer shared today that the show was among the top 10 most watched series in 87 different countries in its second week, and its title has been frequently evoked as the eligibility cutoff for this year’s Emmy Awards approaches next month. But discourse surrounding previous comments made by the artist David Choe, who stars alongside Ali Wong and Steven Yeun as Yeun’s character’s cousin, has since reached a fever pitch.

In a 2014 podcast, Choe told a story about sexually assaulting a masseuse, which he called “rapey behavior.” Though he later denied that he was speaking factually and apologized for his comments, a journalist’s recent resurfacing of the podcast episode on Twitter has called into question the BEEF creators’ decision to cast him.

On April 21—more than a week after Choe’s comments resurfaced—Wong, Yeun, and creator Lee Sung Jin gave a statement to Variety. “The story David Choe fabricated nine years ago is undeniably hurtful and extremely disturbing,” they said. “We do not condone this story in any way, and we understand why this has been so upsetting and triggering. We’re aware David has apologized in the past for making up this horrific story, and we’ve seen him put in the work to get the mental health support he needed over the last decade to better himself and learn from his mistakes.”

Who is David Choe?

Choe is a Los Angeles-based artist who has been working for three decades. He is perhaps best known for painting murals for the Meta (then Facebook) offices. In 2005, Sean Parker, then president of Facebook, invited Choe to paint the walls of the tech company’s first offices in Palo Alto, Calif. Choe chose to receive payment in stock rather than cash, and when Facebook went public seven years later, his shares were valued at approximately $200 million. Two years later, Mark Zuckerberg commissioned Choe to paint murals for their next offices.

The first set of murals drew mixed reactions. In 2006, Gawker reported that a journalist for Jaded Magazine had been shadowing Choe when he was at work in the Palo Alto offices. “Within this short 20-minute visit, Parker encouraged him to go crazy and draw as many giant ‘cocks’ as Choe wanted,” reads an excerpt from the Jaded journalist in Gawker. “I saw the artist slap on a smile and slip into David Choe persona, immediately head downstairs, and tag up a woman on all fours in about two minutes to the delight and amusement of Parker and his friend.” (According to the Los Angeles Times, the allegedly sexually graphic artwork has since been “airbrushed out of the official Facebook history.”)

Choe’s artwork—and the persona to which the Jaded journalist was referring—explores themes like degradation and desire, and the artist has termed his work “dirty style.” After the Facebook murals (the second set of which were comparatively tame, depicting abstract faces, bodies, and eyes), he held solo exhibitions in New York, London, and Mexico City. He has worked with Vice, CNN, and HBO, and recently created The Choe Show for FX, in which he paints famous guests and takes them on “a journey of shared emotional experience.”

What happened in 2014?

In 2013, Choe started co-hosting the podcast DVDASA with adult film star Asa Akira. On March 10, 2014, DVDASA released an episode in which Choe said that he engaged in “rapey behavior.”

He told a story about sexually assaulting a Black woman who had been giving him a massage. He said that he started to masturbate in front of the masseuse without telling her.

“I’m at a place and there’s potential for a lawsuit, and she has given me no signs that she’s into me or that this is appropriate behavior,” BuzzFeed reported that Choe said on the podcast. “In my head I go, ‘Do you care if I jerk off right now?’ and it sounds so creepy in my head that I go, ‘I can’t say that out loud.’”

“So I go back to the chill method of: you never ask first, you just do it, get in trouble, and then pay the price later.”

Choe went on to say that after the masseuse stopped the massage, he asked her to “pretend like I’m not doing this” and continue with the massage, which she did. He asked to touch her, touched her, and she pulled away. He then described an escalation that culminated in him pushing her head down and forcing her to perform oral sex.


On the podcast, after Choe told this story, Akira said, “You raped… allegedly.” Choe responded, “Well… encouraged.”

“I just want to make it clear that I admit that that’s rapey behavior,” Choe said. “But I am not a rapist.”

Akira then said, “You’re basically telling us that you’re a rapist right now.” To which Choe responded, “Yeah.”

What was the response to the podcast?

At the time, writer Melissa Stetten first covered the podcast episode for the now-defunct website XOJane. Then Ali Vingiano and Tasneem Nashrulla picked up the story for BuzzFeed News. On the same day that the BuzzFeed article went up in 2014, Choe responded.

On DVDASA’s now-defunct website, he wrote that he was not a rapist, that the podcast is “not a representation of reality,” and that the stories he told on it were not facts.

“I never thought I’d wake up one late afternoon and hear myself called a rapist,” Choe wrote, according to BuzzFeed. “It sucks. Especially because I am not one. I am not a rapist. I hate rapists, I think rapists should be raped and murdered. I am an artist and a storyteller and I view my show DVDASA as a complete extension of my art.”

In 2017, Choe was commissioned to paint a mural in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, which was protested by other artists. (Less than a week after the mural was finished, graffiti writers tagged huge letters over the piece in a show of disapproval.)

Choe then apologized again via his Instagram account. “In a 2014 episode of DVDASA, I relayed a story simply for shock value that made it seem as if I had sexually violated a woman,” he wrote. “Though I said those words, I did not commit those actions. It did not happen. I have ZERO history of sexual assault.”

“I am deeply sorry for any hurt I’ve brought to anyone through my past words,” he continued. “Non-consensual sex is rape and it is never funny or appropriate to joke about. I was a sick person at the height of my mental illness, and have spent the last 3 years in mental health facilities healing myself and dedicating my life to helping and healing others through love and action.”

What’s happening now?

Less than a week after BEEF came out, on April 12, Aura Bogado, a senior reporter at the Center for Investigative Reporting, responded to a tweet about Choe from the Twitter account @FilmUpdates.

“David Choe, as in the guy who detailed the way he raped a woman?” Bogado quote-tweeted. “And then came back to say it was just a misunderstood version of his reality?”

Bogado posted a video clip of the podcast to Twitter, then tweeted that Choe wrote to Twitter to get the video taken down. She included screenshots of emails addressed to her in which it appears that Choe has claimed that his nonprofit, the David Young Choe Foundation, owns the copyright to the video. Tweets that included the video were removed from Twitter on April 16.

That email seems to be the only response that Choe has given to the incident since it resurfaced. Netflix and A24 have not responded to the allegations. Twitter users called out the BEEF stars’ silence in the long interim before their statement was published in Variety on April 21.


As of press time, Netflix had not responded to TIME’s request for comment.

'Beef' Criticized After Star's Rape Comments

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