John Cena is not having a great week. He inadvertently sparked an international incident, and then he proceeded to clean up the mess by, uh, issuing a hot-button apology that may have made things worse. It’s a PR disaster, so let’s briefly recap here.
Cena, while promoting Fast 9 on a Taiwanese broadcast, referred to Taiwan as a “country,” and China wasn’t thrilled (because Beijing still considers Taiwan to be a territory of the People’s Republic of China, despite Taiwan being self-governed following the Chinese Civil War, which ended in 1950). The issue of Taiwan’s sovereignty will likely always be one of great contention; and Cena’s apology was almost certainly meant to smooth over any potential box-office fallout in China as the movie business struggles to recover amid the pandemic.
The results were more than awkward. The WWE star apologized in Mandarin while declaring, “I must say now, [it’s] very, very, very, very important [that] I love, and respect even more, China and the Chinese people.”
Cena finds himself within an especially difficult position, given that he’s the newest face in an established franchise that’s always come out with box-office guns blazing. That hasn’t discouraged the criticism, though. Not only are “hostage video” remarks floating around on Twitter, but prominent Republicans are pouncing all over him. Leading the way is Sen. Marco Rubio, who already tweets about China multiple times per day and says that Cena’s proving that “[a] world where #China’s Communist Party controls what Americans can say isn’t some nightmarish future threat.”
A world where #China’s Communist Party controls what Americans can say isn’t some nightmarish future threat
It’s already here https://t.co/hmSsb0UaoL
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) May 25, 2021
Several more Republicans weighed in, including Megyn Kelly, Mike Pompeo, Ben Shapiro, and Joe Walsh, and multiple other senators in addition to Rubio.
Yeah, John, you were correct. On your bowing to the Chinese Communist Party… I don’t see you!
We must stand with Taiwan and for freedom.https://t.co/e5mqrmz47p
— Mike Pompeo (@mikepompeo) May 25, 2021
Insane. Instead of kowtowing to the Communist Party of China – how about we stand up for our democratic ally Taiwan as they face increasing threats and aggression from General Secretary Xi?https://t.co/6cxRJSc0KG
— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) May 25, 2021
We’ve rightly condemned all the Republicans & conservative media figures who sold their souls to hang on to money, ratings, influence and power. @JohnCena 👇is a reminder that most people will sell their soul. Doing the right thing, and taking that hit, is not humanity’s norm. https://t.co/1SGcrYw0x9
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) May 25, 2021
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) May 25, 2021
So it appears @JohnCena is kissing-up to Communist leaders and declares Taiwan isn't a country to keep the CCP happy.
John looks like he is owned. Pathetic. Especially from an American. https://t.co/PX2mDNyJfe
— Jessie Jane Duff (@JessieJaneDuff) May 25, 2021
Some Democrats aren’t impressed either. As Keith Olbermann points out, “apologiz[ing] to a dictatorship” complicates Cena’s existing predicament.