The rapper Macklemore, otherwise known as Ben Haggerty, has forged a reputation for tolerance; he has called out fellow rappers for their homophobic lyrics, and his song “Same Love” became an anthem for the 2012 marriage-equality campaign in his home state of Washington. So it was off-brand, to say the least, when Macklemore made a surprise appearance at a Seattle event this week and performed his hit song “Thrift Shop” — about the joys of bargain-hunting in a world of overpriced retail — wearing a fake beard, a dark wig, and an enormous fake nose that fit into centuries-old Jewish stereotypes.
As photos of the appearance spread, Macklemore was called out by the likes of the B’nai Brith International and the actor Seth Rogen. The rapper first insisted that the costume was “random,” and was merely designed to allow him to mingle unnoticed before the show. Before long, he apologized, saying he had no idea he would cause offense. But this wasn’t a close call: The costume fit every stereotype of a Shylock-like Jewish merchant. Macklemore’s website now links to that of the Anti-Defamation League. But it’s sad that even a rapper who takes pride in his role-model status needs to be schooled in the spirit of his lyrics.