I came across the hashtag #boomerremover yesterday. It’s an insensitive reference to the tendency for Covid-19 to disproportionately affect older people. The tag reminded me that not all of my fellow humans are tuned in to the severity of the situation.
Social media platforms have been trying to limit misinformation during the outbreak. But it can’t police attitudes. Free speech – even stupid free speech – is part of our society’s bedrock.
On the second day of Illinois’ lockdown, I went in search of tone-deaf comments knowing how mad I was likely to get during my search. Here are a few of the worst I found.
Some comments hint at the personality of the commenter, others are only insensitive in hindsight. Many have dialed back or apologized for inappropriate comments.
These aren’t all quotes from tone-deaf millennials. On March 21st, the U.S. Army removed the writer and insensitive posts from their Instagram and replaced them with an apology.
But let’s start with a quote from an American spring breaker.
1 Florida Spring Breakers
“If I get corona I get corona at the end of the day it’s not gonna’ stop me from partying… the bars and restaurants are closed, but we’ll find ways to have fun.”
This March 19, 2020 video from CBC News includes some very self-centered comments by college-aged students on their American spring breaks – now extended by closed universities.
Local areas began closing beaches after Governor Ron DeSantis refused to clear the crowds.
2 Florida Business Owner Tom Crane
“There were visitors that were here that were content to stay here and finish out their vacations and we’re throwing them out.”
In a March 20, 2020 Miami Herald video, Florida business owner Tom Crane complained about the state shutting down his restaurant.
His tirade continued: “… At 5:00 on St. Patrick’s Day the police went down the street in Key West and told people they had to leave…. Maybe because that’s when a politician’s day ends at 5 o’clock.”
Throughout the video, he seems to be missing the point.
3 High School Athlete Brie Michelli
“I’m angry that our season is being affected due to something that doesn’t appear to be any worse than the flu.”
Some of the insensitivity in this March 17, 2020 quote is probably youthful venting, but it’s an example of young people missing the point.
She continues, “This is my last season to play with our seniors and I was looking forward to going deep in the playoffs. I also wonder how this affects those of us planning on playing in college. In addition, I take my academics seriously and wonder how far behind this will make us and if my grades will suffer.”
4 Actress Vanessa Hudgens
“Sounds like a bunch of bullshit, but, like, it’s a virus ― I get it. I respect it, but, at the same time, like, even if everybody gets it, like, yeah, people are gonna die. Which is terrible, but, like, inevitable.”
Actress Vanessa Hudgens has since walked back her comments posted on her March 16, 2020 Instagram video cavalierly dismissing the death toll of the virus.
5 Actress Evangeline Lilly
“Some people value their lives over freedom, some people value freedom over their lives. We all make our choices. … where we are right now feels a lot too close to Marshall Law [sic] for my comfort already, all in the name of a respiratory flu.”
This, in defense of actress Evangeline Lilly’s position not to self-quarantine after testing positive for Covid-19. As of March 17, 2020, she was still posting on her Instagram about being out and about with her children.
6 Reality star Scheana Shay
“I will continue to live my life … w my friends and not live it in complete isolation or fear. Simple as that. Call me ‘ignorant’ but I’m not gonna stop living!”
Reality star Scheana Shay invited her twitter followers to a party on March 14, 2020 and followed the invitation with this tone-deaf quote.
When criticized, she doubled down saying: “I truly hope each and every one of you tweeting me that I’m stupid for having people at my house are all home alone and not making contact with any people for the rest of the month. Don’t be a hypocrite.”
Shay has since apologized for the series of tweets.
7 Social Influencer Karylle Banez
“If I had the corona virus I know exactly who I be sneezing on…”
Karylle, a model and food critique, tweeted this Covid-19 death threat to a waitress who gave her sub-par service. Seems both insensitive and an overreaction.
Karylle has since replaced the photo’s caption with, “Love getting trolled by people who don’t know me 🙃”.
I guess she can’t sneeze on everyone.
8 Newscaster Trish Regan
“Many in the liberal media are using coronavirus in an attempt to demonize and destroy the president.”
This, from Fox Business Network’s anchor Trish Regan on March 9, 2020. Just a couple of weeks ago, the coronavirus was seen as a hoax or a conspiracy theory. Many of the newscasters have since changed their tune.
The Full quote reads:
“We’ve reached a tipping point. The hate is boiling. Many in the liberal media are using coronavirus in an attempt to demonize and destroy the president, despite the virus originating halfway around the world. This is yet another attempt to impeach, and sadly, it seems the left cares little for any of the destruction they leave in their wake, including losses in the market. This, unfortunately, is all just part of political casualties for them.”
9 Radio Host Rush Limbaugh
“We’re shutting down our country because of the — the cold virus, which is what coronaviruses are. This is COVID-19, the 19th version of the coronavirus.”
Radio host Rush Limbaugh is known for his crass and insensitive comments. In this March 13, 2020 comment, Limbaugh downplays the epidemic and mistakenly refers to this as the 19th version of the virus. The virus is named for the year it was discovered.
The Full quote reads:
“We’re shutting down our country because of the — the cold virus, which is what coronaviruses are. This is COVID-19, the 19th version of the coronavirus. We’re shutting it — can you imagine our enemies watching this? You think the Chinese are not laughing themselves silly over how easy this has been? And it continues. This has been easy.”
In late February, he made a number of references to Covid-19 as a hoax and conspiracy theory including:
• “It looks like the coronavirus is being weaponized as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump.”
• “Now, I want to tell you the truth about the coronavirus … I’m dead right on this. The coronavirus is the common cold, folks.”
• “The drive-by media hype up this thing as a pandemic.”
• “They are trying to use this coronavirus to scare the hell out of everybody in their madcap hopes of finding something that will get rid of Donald Trump.”
10 Televangelist Jerry Falwell
“Could COVID-19 be the ‘Christmas Gift’ North Korea’s leadership promised America back in December?”
Tweeting about his interview on Fox & Friends on March 13, 2020, televangelist Jerry Falwell describes his Covid-19 conspiracy theories.
More from the interview:
“It’s just strange to me how so many are overreacting. The H1N1 virus of 2009 killed 17,000 people. It was the flu also I think. And there was not the same hype. It was — you just didn’t see it on the news 24/7. And it makes you wonder if there’s a political reason for that. It’s, uh. You know, impeachment didn’t work. And the Mueller Report didn’t work. And Article 25 didn’t work, so maybe now this is their next — their next attempt to get Trump. But, I had the owner of a restaurant ask me last night, he said do you remember the North Korean leader promised a Christmas present? For America. Back in December. Could it be they got together with China and this is that present? I don’t know, but it really is something strange going on.”
11 Author Mark Steyn
“San Francisco has just ordered everyone to shelter in place… if there was a big gay apocalypse… the way this thing is going now, it would be Trump who would get blamed for it anyway.”
In a game of word-twister, author Mark Steyn hosting the Rush Limbaugh on March 17, 2020 managed to mix both homophobia and a conspiracy theory to bring down the president.
The full quote reads:
“It’s a big gay town, San Francisco, and they’re the ones with all the compromised immune systems from all the protease inhibitors and all the other stuff… And they don’t want all the gays dropping dead on the San Francisco mayor’s watch. So that’s why they’ve got all that sheltering in place there.”
“And even if it dropped, they all dropped dead on the San Francisco mayor’s watch, if there was a big gay apocalypse, you know, the way this thing is going now, it would be Trump who would get blamed for it anyway. He’d be — it would be his homophobia that would have struck down all these people in San Francisco. So that’s why they’ve all been ordered to stay home. And it’s not easy staying home.”
12 Social Influencer Kacey “Kaceytron” Caviness
“We would leave quarantine and we would try to spread it as much as possible, because the world would be a better place without old and poor people.”
This, in response to a question on whether she would kiss someone with Covid-19, got social influencer Kaceytron permanently banned from Twitch.
13 U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross
“I think it will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America.”
Speaking to Fox Business Network on January 30, 2020, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross seemed to see a bright side of the disease. I can’t find a retraction, but I’m thinking he’s changed his tune.
Ross did at least express sympathy for the victims in other parts of his interview:
“Well, first of all, every American’s heart has to go out to the victims of the coronavirus, so I don’t want to talk about a victory lap over a very unfortunate, very malignant disease. But the fact is it does give businesses yet another thing to consider when they go through their review of their supply chain on top of all the other things, because you had SARS, you had the African swine virus there, now you have this,”
14 Courrier Picard’s Yellow Alert
“Coronavirus Chinese Yellow Alert”
The French newspaper “Courrier Picard” ran this frontpage headline “Coronavirus Chinese Yellow Alert”.
Lashing out at the racist implications, the hashtag #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus emerged, which is French for “I am not a virus”.
Despite being widely condemned as racist comment, Donald Trump continues to refer to Covid-19 as a “Chinese Virus”.
15 Corona Instagram filter
The filter that comically shows you whether you are infected with Covid-19. It been taken down by Instagram.
16 Businessman Michael Saylor
“It is soul-stealing and debilliating [sic] to embrace the notion of social distancing & economic hibernation. If we wish to maintain our productivity, we need to continue working in [our] offices.”
Businessman Michael Saylor emailed his employees at Microstrategy on March 16, 2020 coming out against social distancing and basically telling his workers to get back to work.
Saylor’s quote continues with in a similarly insensitive vein:
“In the absolutely worse case, the overall life expectancy worldwide would click down by a few weeks,” he added. “Instead of 79.60 years to live we would have 79.45 years to live. 1 out of 500 people will pass on a bit sooner, or not, or die from a celebrated disease instead of just old age. We should continue to do our work, serve our customers, educate our children, cultivate our health, pursue our hobbies, worship our gods, enjoy our sports, cherish our friends, listen to our music, eat, drink, & be merry.”
17 Billionaire Tim Draper
“The fear is far worse than the virus. The governments have it wrong. Stay open for business. If not, so many more people will die from a crashing economy than from this virus.”
In a March 14th tweet, billionaire Tim Draper is much more worried about the bottom line than his workers dying.
Tone deaf comments made by political figures, businessmen, and popular people make the news and are seen by lots of people on social media platforms.
I’m sure you’ve encountered insensitive comments. Share them below.