Quoting Winston Churchill seems harmless enough, but a former NASA astronaut found out the hard way that it’s impossible to please everyone on Twitter, after apologizing for citing the revered British leader.
Scott Kelly, who has made multiple trips into space, issued an apology on Sunday after being hounded by furious netizens about a tweet in which he quoted British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
“One of the greatest leaders of modern times, Sir Winston Churchill said, ‘in victory, magnanimity.’ I guess those days are over,” Kelly tweeted, in an apparent commentary on Brett Kavanaugh’s contentious confirmation to the Supreme Court.
But some responses to this nugget of wisdom were far from charitable.
“Churchill was a mass murderer. His actions led to the death of millions due to famine in bengal state of erstwhile India during WW2. He compared indians to beasts. He may be a hero for a lot of u, not for indians like me,” one enraged netizen wrote.
Churchill was a mass murderer. His actions led to the death of millions due to famine in bengal state of erstwhile india during WW2. He compared indians to beasts. He myt be a hero for a lot of u, not for indians like me.
— Ayan (@suriya__offcl) October 7, 2018
“I am very surprised that of all people you endorse a racist bigot who was directly responsible for millions of deaths in Bengal famine of 1943,” another Twitter user fired back. Others pointed to Churchill’s racism and full-bodied support for colonialism.
Startled by the angry reactions to his somewhat innocuous tweet, Kelly posted a follow-up in which he promised to better “educate” himself about Churchill.
“Did not mean to offend by quoting Churchill. My apologies. I will go and educate myself further on his atrocities, racist views which I do not support. My point was we need to come together as one nation. We are all Americans. That should transcend partisan politics,” he wrote.
But like all tragicomedies that unfold on Twitter, his apology created another wave of fuss.
“Are you kidding me? You have nothing to apologize for. Churchill was a great man. We live in crazy times,” one user replied.
“Never apologize when you quote someone who defeated Hitler. Never,” another commented, apparently unaware of the Soviet Union’s existence.
Even a few blue checkmarks weighed in, urging Kelly to rethink his apology.
You are disgracing yourself here. Please stop bending to the will of deranged online trolls.
— Yossi Gestetner (@YossiGestetner) October 7, 2018
Please don’t apologize. Winston Churchill, like all of us, had serious human failings. But unlike most of us—he possessed genuine greatness. And that greatness may have saved freedom & democracy. Ask the Twitter scolds to name a hero or heroine who didn’t have serious flaws.
— Christina Sommers (@CHSommers) October 8, 2018
But at least Kelly accurately quoted Churchill – no easy task when the internet is awash with bogus quotes attributed to the famous British leader. In August, Texas Governor Greg Abbott tweeted a meme that claimed Churchill once said that leftists would be the “fascists of the future.” In response, the Twitterati then flooded the governor with memorable and extremely fake “Churchill” quotes.
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