Now, his creator is is teaming up with the the Anti-Defamation League to restore his legacy.
Pepe artist Matt Furie is working on a series of positive Pepe memes that the ADL will promote on its social media channels in a campaign to #SavePepe.
The news comes weeks after the ADL designated hateful versions of Pepe a "calling card of racists," earning him a spot in the ADL's online database
of hate symbols.
"It's completely insane that Pepe has been labeled a symbol of hate, and that racists and anti-Semites are using a once peaceful frog-dude from my comic book as an icon of hate. It's a nightmare, and the only thing I can do is see this as an opportunity to speak out against hate," Furie recently said in a Time column
"Before he got wrapped up in politics, Pepe was an inside joke and a symbol for feeling sad or feeling good and many things in between. I understand that it's out of my control, but in the end, Pepe is whatever you say he is, and I, the creator, say that Pepe is love."
Furie reached out to the ADL after it announced Pepe's hate symbol status, the ADL said in a news release
. The designation does not apply to all Pepes, only to versions of the cartoon amphibian dressed as Klan members or depicted as Jewish caricatures.
"Pepe was never intended to be used as a symbol of hate," ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt said.
"The sad frog was meant to be just that, a sad frog. We are going to work with Matt and his community of artists to reclaim Pepe so that he might be used as a force for good, or at the very least to help educate people about the dangers of prejudice and bigotry."