Not all humor is for everyone (just read reviews of Seth MacFarlane's Oscar night hosting job), but some jokes cause everyone to agree that a line has been crossed. Such was the case Sunday night when, for nearly an hour, a tweet by the Onion applied the c-word to 9-year-old "Beasts of the Southern Wild" star Quvenzhané Wallis. On Monday, The Onion CEO Steve Hannah apologized and promised disciplinary action for "those individuals responsible."
Here's the bulk of Hannah's message, posted on Facebook and on the satire news site:
On behalf of The Onion, I offer my personal apology to Quvenzhané Wallis and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the tweet that was circulated last night during the Oscars. It was crude and offensive — not to mention inconsistent with The Onion’s commitment to parody and satire, however biting.No person should be subjected to such a senseless, humorless comment masquerading as satire.The tweet was taken down within an hour of publication. We have instituted new and tighter Twitter procedures to ensure that this kind of mistake does not occur again.In addition, we are taking immediate steps to discipline those individuals responsible.Miss Wallis, you are young and talented and deserve better. All of us at The Onion are deeply sorry.
It's key that Hannah says the attempted joke was "inconsistent with The Onion's commitment to parody and satire." This is a group that has deftly responded to the country's worst tragedies with humor that helps us cope, from 9/11 ("Hugging Up 76,000 Percent"; "U.S. Vows to Defeat Whoever It Is We're At War With") to the Sandy Hook massacre ("F*** Everything, Nation Reports ... Just F*** It All To Hell").
While it wasn't the first time that The Onion's Twitter feed landed it in hot water, the crass, throwaway tweet about an amazing little actress didn't just seem in poor taste, but not very Onion-y at all.
Wilson Rothman is the Technology & Science editor at NBC News Digital. Catch up with him on Twitter at @wjrothman, and join our conversation on Facebook.