Social media star Keith Lee is attempting to clear the air.
Earlier this week, the TikTok food critic posted a video in which he addressed a potentially career-ending scandal. The Las Vegas resident, who is known for reviewing struggling restaurants in the city, was accused of stealing an idea from a TV producer who had pitched to him late last year.
The allegations began circulating after Emmy Award-winner Gyllian Carter criticized an unnamed content creator who ripped off her concept. Though she declined to provide details, Carter claimed the individual was “beloved” TikTok influencer who she believes would make “great TV.”
“I didn’t know if I was gonna address this or not, but I’m just so disappointed and so frustrated about this situation, that I think I’m just gonna have to say something,” she said in a TikTok, before breaking down her accolades and job description. “… Recently, there’s a creator here, on TikTok, that is beloved by all. I even love them and still think they would make great TV. I pitched them an idea to take to networks, and they basically said no in a nice way, but then stole my fuckin’ idea. They just stole it, and now they’re doing it.”
Many users quickly assumed Carter was referencing Lee, as she included the hashtags #foodcriticandthief in her caption. Lee caught wind of the drama and confirmed he had, in fact, communicated with Carter last month and heard her pitch. He provided screenshots of a Dec. 11 DM in which he told Carter he did not currently have a TV show, but was hearing pitches later that week.
Lee said Carter had pitched a show with a simple premise: He would dress in disguised, find a restaurant that was struggling, and review their food. He claimed he had spoke to Carter on Dec. 13, and that he had heard the “exact same” pitch in other meetings. Lee also pointed out that the has been doing disguises before Carter ever messaged him, as he didn’t want his online popularity to affect his treatment at restaurants.
“I had anywhere between 2 million and 3 million followers at the time she reached out to me...” he explained. “I personally was able to walk into restaurants and be treated the exact same, because not a lot of restaurants recognized me. Now, with 9.6 million followers it’s almost impossible, that’s why I [started] going into disguise.”
He also said he wanted to do the disguises to highlight his sister’s makeup and hairstyling skills.
“So again, me going in disguise and me doing what I’ve been doing, is not because I got that email from you, Gyllian,” he continued. “And I’m saying that in the most honest and pure form. I don’t mean any harm, but I do not appreciate you putting labels on me like that … I have not once stolen anything or taken anything from anybody. Everything that’s given to me is from god.”
Carter has since posted another video, insisting Lee was not the subject of her initial claims. However, she made it clear she would not apologize for her previous statements.
“I’m not gonna apologize for being frustrated about someone stealing an idea from me,” she began. “… Keith, this is for you: That video was not about you. And I did not think you would think that video was about you, because our interactions were very minimal.”
She went on to say that her pitch was essentially taking his online content and ideas and put it into “broadcast or online streaming format.”
“So again, Keith, there was nothing for you to steal,” she said. “I would not accuse you of stealing something that didn’t really exist … I didn’t pitch you an idea that was original, I didn’t pitch you an idea that was even mine.”
Lee has yet to respond to Carter’s second video.