By David Milberg, New York-based Entrepreneur
You would think by now people would think before they tweet. Because anyone not named Donald Trump could easily lose their career and their livelihood for a 140-character rant. But this lesson has yet to be learned by many in the public square, as well as many others who are in positions of influence and should know better.
Enter Katie Rich, a writer for comedy program Saturday Night Live. For the past several months, SNL has been delighting liberals and infuriating Mr. Trump with their satirical treatment of Mr. Trump and his aide Kellyanne Conway. You can bet that Trump supporters were looking for some revenge, some way to expose the hypocrisy and foibles of the Other Side.
For a while there was nothing. Just comedy sketches, take it or leave it, like it or hate it. Enter Rich, who practically gift-wrapped a tweet that just about everyone found objectionable. Her tweet, meant as a joke, landed very poorly because it centered not on Trump but on his ten-year-old son, Barron. The tweet created an explosive reaction on social media, with most people strongly condemning the writer for her tweet.
As Rich was “indefinitely suspended,” the subsequent firestorm began a still ongoing debate about what is truly “off limits” in political discourse. As the dust settled on the initial kerfuffle and each side returned to its own corner, a new argument arose.
As entrepreneur Dan Palmier noted, “This tweet was in poor taste but it was much less than what the Obama daughters had to endure from some elements in the media as well as people on social media. If they weren’t off limits, the argument went, why is Barron?”
Yet, others including real estate professional Rhonda Adams said kids should be off limits. Cries to ‘let them be kids and keep them out of the increasingly caustic political discourse’ resonated with millions.”
Meanwhile, though the argument had spread, Rich was still the epicenter and the primary target. She deleted her tweet, then her entire Twitter account. Later, she temporarily re-activated the account in order to apologize and express “deep regret” for her “insensitive” tweet.
That didn’t stop the other shoe from dropping. SNL suspended the writer, to the delight of the ones waving metaphorical pitchforks. One of those turned out to be someone unexpected. Former First Kid Chelsea Clinton weighed in, saying Barron deserves “the chance every child does – to be a kid.”
That should have been obvious to Rich, despite SNL’s somewhat shaky relationship with former First Kids. Sometimes, you have to look beyond the acceptable status quo and realize the likely results before you click send … even if you really think it’s funny at the time. Remember, there will be another “time” … and that may be all the time you get.