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The Onion’s Quvenzhané Wallis Controversy refers to the public reaction regarding a tweet published on the official Twitter account for the satirical news organization The Onion calling the American child actress Quvenzhané Wallis a “cunt.”
During The Oscars held on February 24th, 2013, the official Twitter account for The Onion made a controversial tweet about Academy Award nominee Quvenzhané Wallis, referring to the nine-year-old actress as “kind of a cunt” (shown below).
The tweet was immediately met with widespread criticism, with many Twitter users offended by the tweet spreading the hashtag “#unfollowTheOnion.” Within one hour, The Onion deleted the tweet from the feed.
— Tameka Green (@Tameka_Green) February 25, 2013
Several celebrities chimed in on Twitter criticizing The Onion, including actors LeVar Burton and Wendell Pierce, actress Holly Robinson Peete and political commentator Keith Olbermann.
Calling a nine year old girl a Cunt IS NOT SATIRE!
— LeVar Burton (@levarburton) February 25, 2013
@theonion We won’t let you be disrespectful to our children. Identify the writer. There are consequences to your free speech.
— Wendell Pierce (@WendellPierce) February 25, 2013
— Holly Robinson Peete (@hollyrpeete) February 25, 2013
— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) February 25, 2013
The Onion Apologizes
The morning after the incident, The Onion CEO Steve Hannah issued an official apology in a post published on The Onion’s front page.
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.
That morning, former Onion News staffer Chris Sartinsky tweeted that the Wallis controversy would be used by Hannah to grant The Onion’s management and advertising sales more editorial control and New York Times staff writer David Carr criticized the message being delivered by Hannah to The Onion staff.
Steve Hannah will use this to shuttle last shreds of editorial say from creative-->management & ad sales. Cunt is the onion’s reichstag fire
— chrhs srrtknsky (@csartinsky) February 25, 2013
Onion to writers: Tweet incredibly edgy, funny stuff. If you go over the line, we’ll just slide you under the bus.
— david carr (@carr2n) February 25, 2013
The same day, the Adult Swim comedy website ThingX, ran by former employees of The Onion, published a satirical apology mocking the public outrage for the Wallis tweet.
On behalf of Thing X, I’d like to offer the following public apology for everything we’ve ever done:
I am sorry to the thousands of people who took offense when we suggested that water chestnuts were worse than the Killing Fields of Cambodia. The fact that I find their sickening, crunchy texture and utter lack of flavor personally disgusting, is irrelevant to the millions who died in that terrible tragedy.
They are really bad, though.
We’d like to apologize to those who did not enjoy our Christmas album, “Now That’s A Merry Fucking Christmas!” The word “Fuck” was testing well that year among schoolchildren, and we figured it would be a no-brainer.
We’d also like to say “we are sorry” to the dozens of schoolchildren we accidentally released nerve gas on in our testing chambers the year we released our Christmas album.
In addition, let me take this opportunity to apologize to anyone who’s ever been offended by anything at any point throughout time. To be challenged in any way, or made to feel an emotion that is not immediately recognizable, is the worst thing in the world, and something for which the incredible human gift of language should never, ever be used. We are sorry if your feelings were ever hurt about anything.
To that end, we’re sorry to the people of Pompeii, JonBenet Ramsey, the people of Afghanistan, the people of Iraq, the people of Rochester, New York, those who were unhappy with their last meal, the world’s retarded people, the victims of the tsunami thing, anyone who was offended just now by the term “retarded people,” Jimmy Spivey, whom I made fun of in high school for his big fat head, Armenians, and, most importantly, victims everywhere--especially our advertisers.
Rest assured that from this day forward, nothing will matter to us more than your comfort, now and after we are dead. Moreover, we have taken immediate action and murdered every intern involved with these incidents.
Thing X CEO
Also on February 25th, the tech news site Wired published an article accusing The Onion of perpetuating the “media’s cruelty toward women” and praised The Onion for issuing an apology. On the following day, Forbes published an article about the apology, criticizing Hannah for apologizing and threatening to discipline staff writers for the tweet. Also on February 26th, The Guardian published an article about the possible negative consequences the apology might have on the company’s ability to perform proper satire.