Tweet in Haste, Regret in Leisure: The Onion's Oscar Faux-Pas

Brian Adams US Communications Director, WildAid

Posted on February 25th 2013

Tweet in Haste, Regret in Leisure: The Onion's Oscar Faux-Pas


If you were on Twitter after the Oscars then you are aware of “The Tweet.” It was sent out at 8:42PST and taken down within an hour of being posted. Its content divided Twitter users between defenders of satire and those standing up for a 9-year-old Oscar nominee.

@TheOnion, the satirical media outlet that recently gained notoriety for its “coverage” of the Newtown shooting, posted the tweet about Beasts of the Southern Wild star Quvenzhane Wallis:

Screen shot offensive onion tweet

Coming to the young actress’s defense was former star of The Wire, Wendell Pierce who posted several tweets in response including:

onion responds to social media criticism

As the tweet generated discussion on Twitter it also grabbed headlines including this one from the Associated Press: Onion Criticized For Joke About Quvenzhane Wallis

The Internet never forgets so it will be interesting to see if and how @TheOnion will respond. Will they fire the tweet’s author? Will they stand by their post? Will this story continue to build? Will Twitter take any action against @TheOnion? Will this post test the free speech rights of Twitter users?

UPDATE: @TheOnion has offically apologized with this Facebook post:

Feb. 25, 2013

Dear Readers,

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.


Steve Hannah
The Onion


Brian Adams

US Communications Director, WildAid

Brian Adams (@brianadamspr) is the US Communications Director @WildAid. He also consults with nonprofits, including Komera Project and Samahope, regarding communications strategy. Brian was previously Senior Director of Communications at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley and the head of Media and Community Relations for the MSPCA-Angell. A version of this story first appeared on the author's blog.

See Full Profile >


Posted on February 25th 2013 at 1:50PM

The post was abhorrent, but I feel like Steve Hannah's apology was sincere. With the string of Twitter missteps and security lapses (on both the part of the site and the user), this is just another example of why it's so vitally important to know who has access to what accounts, and to ensure that all users are aware of what content is and is not acceptable.