Film critic Roger Ebert is never shy with his opinions, be they about movies or otherwise. But after criticizing five California teens who chose to wear clothing bearing the American flag to their high school on Cinco de Mayo, Ebert has faced a particularly angry backlash.
On his Twitter account, Ebert, whose battle with thyroid cancer has disfigured his appearance and taken his voice, wrote the following:
Ebert's words set off a firestorm with several right-leaning Twitter users. Caleb Howe, a blogger at RedState, fired off a series of jabs at Ebert, including the following:@ebertchicago Kids who wear American Flag T-shirts on 5 May should have to share a lunchroom table with those who wear a hammer and sickle on 4 July.
Conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation dedicated a post to Ebert's tweet.You know, @ebertchicago, I'm not as expert on flag etiquette as you. Tell me, which do I fly when you die of cancer?
"So is May 5 now an anti-American flag day?" wrote Rory Cooper. "Isn't the great thing about America that we can celebrate more than one culture at a time, regardless of the day?"
Responding to those who had, by way of criticizing his tweet, made reference to his cancer, Ebert returned to Twitter, and fired off the following retort:
Shortly after that apparent reference to the tea party movement, Gawker ran a story titled "Tea Party Turns on Roger Ebert, Mocks his Cancer," which was reposted hundreds of times on Twitter. Whether or not the skirmish involved self-described members of the tea party movement, the Cinco de Mayo episode in California has touched a nerve ever since the national media began covering the story last week.Dear TeePee tweeters making fun of my cancer: You want ugly? For that you have to look at a mind, not a face.
After refusing to remove shirts and bandannas emblazoned with the American flag, five students at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, Calif., were sent home on May 5, the day that commemorates a Mexican victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla, and on which Mexican-Americans have long commemorated their heritage.
Forty percent of Live Oak's students are of Hispanic origin, while 50 percent are white.
"They said we could wear it on any other day, but today is sensitive to Mexican-Americans because it's supposed to be their holiday, so we were not allowed to wear it, " one of the students, Daniel Galli, told NBC News.
The Morgan Hill Unified School District has launched an investigation into the matter, and the school's principal has since apologized.
"In this situation, I may have moved too quickly in drawing the line of when to take preventative action," Nick Boden, Live Oak High School's principal, said at a press conference May 7.
Writing on his blog Sunday, Ebert expounded on what he had meant in his original tweet.
"The question is obviously not whether Americans, or anyone else, has the right to wear our flag on their T-shirts," Ebert said. "But empathetic people realize much depends on context. If, on Cinco de Mayo, you turn up at your school with a large Mexican-American student population wearing such shirts, are you (1) joining the spirit of the holiday or (2) looking for trouble?"
Responding to Ebert on Monday, The National Review's Greg Pollowitz chimed in: "The question is not whether wearing the shirts constituted a provocation, but if the decision of the principal to force the kids to turn their shirts inside-out was appropriate." Pollowitz added, "As for me, I give Ebert's blog post, and his original tweet, two very big thumbs down."