A Brief History of People Getting Fired for Social Media Stupidity
Not a day goes by, it seems, without a new story of someone posting an unbelievably tasteless, offensive, stupid, racist, homophobic, sexist or otherwise inappropriate thing on social media. Bigotry expressed in private is inexcusable, but bigotry voluntarily scribbled upon the un-erasable blackboard that is the Internet is a new kind of unbelievable. It boggles the mind that people will actually document and broadcast their terrible ideas online – especially given the documented and broadcast history of people getting fired over similar behavior. And yet, they do.
Just this month, we've gotten fresh examples of the genre from Paula Deen, who apparently likes ethnic drag as much as she likes cooking with butter; and from the British bankers who thought it would be fun to playact an ISIS beheading. Here's a look back at those and some of the other most ridiculous and terrible things people have posted to their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts before losing their jobs as a result. We apologize in advance to anyone whose idiocy and/or bigotry didn't make the cut, but if we listed everyone we'd be here all month.
The Bankers Who Think ISIS Killings Are a Hoot
Just last week, six HSBC bankers in Birmingham, England, were fired over re-enacting (and recording, and posting on Instagram) a mock ISIS beheading. One of the bank employees – the one who nabbed the coveted leading role of beheading victim – rocked an orange jumpsuit as he kneeled in front of his five colleagues, who did a lovely job as a supporting ensemble in black tracksuits and balaclavas. They were fired after the super-insensitive clip circulated online, of course. In their defense, the video was reportedly made during a work-sponsored team-building exercise, and you can only do so many trust falls before it becomes boring and, quite frankly, dangerous.
Paula Deen Does It Again
Paula Deen is the most racist celebrity chef ever – or at least the most racist one we know of. Two years ago, when it was revealed that she was a racial-slur aficionado, Deen lost deals and contracts with the Food Network, Smithfield Foods, Walmart, Target, QVC, Caesars Entertainment, J.C. Penney, Sears, Kmart and her then-publisher Ballantine Books. (On the plus side, sales for her cookbooks soared, and Deen was immortalized by a riveting if perhaps overly ambitious episode of Law & Order: SVU.) This time, however, it was Deen who did the firing. Last week, a photo of the chef and her son Bobby dressed as Lucy and Ricky Ricardo from I Love Lucy – complete with skin-darkening makeup for Bobby – showed up on her social media accounts, along with the allegedly funny caption, "Lucyyyyyyy! You got a lot of esplainin' to do!" There's nothing wrong with dressing up as characters from a beloved TV show, but let's go out on a limb and say that no one should ever incorporate black face or brown face into their Halloween costumes, or their social media strategy, or their lives. The photo was from a 2011 Halloween episode of Paula's Best Dishes; it's unclear what inspired Deen's social media manager to dig this gem out of the vault in July. Needless to say, the social media manager has been fired.
The Prison Official Who Joked About Prison Rape
Michael Allred, a Maryland state statistics official and police liaison (whatever that job combination entails), had only been on the job for a few weeks when he updated his Facebook status thusly: "Visiting the prisons… haven't been groped this much since the flight on the honeymoon… and this is just the guards." Because he's so diligent and conscientious, Allred tagged his boss as well as the exact prison he was visiting, writing, "with Steve Moyer at Maryland House of Correction." It was that very tagged boss who went on to relieve Allred of his no-doubt-important duties. "I immediately called Mike and told him to immediately remove that post from his Facebook page and I never want to see a page like that again," Moyer eloquently said.
The Bartender Who Called Black People Un-hirable
Making explicitly racist statements is always wrong – and it's extra dumb in an era when right-wingers have worked so hard on establishing coded language to help racists cloak their bigotry in euphemisms. Witness the case of Jessica Harr, who is white, and worked as a bartender at the Chicago nightclub Proof in her spare time from spewing old-school racist pseudo-science on Facebook. Throwing caution, good sense and punctuation to the wind, Harr wrote, "wow so insane how one race of people can be so fucking incompetent and disgusting…. they make everything dirty ignorant and cant act like normal human beings." She went on to toss in some racial slurs and "apes," adding, "Even when theyre in their 40's they cant act intelligent. and they wonder why they cant find jobs?!?! Id never fucking hire one either." In the end it was Harr who had to hit the job market – she got the axe for her racist screed.
The Hospital Employee Who Suggested Police Should Commit Genocide in Ferguson
A woman who worked at a Houston hospital took to Facebook to share her deep thoughts in response to events in Ferguson, Missouri, after the police killing of Michael Brown: "The police need to just start mowing them down with machine guns, purge them." A member of the public alerted her employer, reasonably arguing that "a hospital is a place where you're supposed to have compassion upon people of all races." The hospital agreed and fired the aspiring war criminal.
The Taco Bell Employee Who Urinated on a Signature Dish
Cameron Jankowski, a worker at a Fort Wayne, Indiana, Taco Bell, urinated on an order of Nachos BellGrande. . .and took a photo of his urinary output. . .and tweeted the photo. No, this was not a performance art protest against Taco Bell's history of racist ad campaigns. Nor was this a symbolic attack on the inauthenticity of the BellGrande name, which isn't even Spanish – an example of the chain's coopting and distortion of Mexican cuisine and culture. Jankowski's goal was much more noble: to win the admiration of revenge porn media magnate Hunter Moore. Jankowski's tweet contained the hashtag #pissolympics," "#nacobellgrande," (leaving out the "h" in nacho is the least of his problems) and the intriguing question, "guess where I work." When critics objected, Jankowski proclaimed, "there are no laws saying what you can and cannot piss upon." That's not actually true, as a cursory review of the case law on food contamination and indecent exposure reveals. Jankowski was fired.
The Radio Jock Who Tweeted About “Dirty Mexicans”
Former major league pitcher turned radio personality Mike Bacsik had a Twitter meltdown after his beloved Dallas Mavericks were defeated by the San Antonio Spurs. His contribution to the conversation: "congrats to all the dirty mexicans in San Antonio." At first Sports Radio 1310 The Ticket in Dallas suspended him indefinitely for his racist comments. Then they fired him. Bacsik was semi-remorseful, telling ESPNDallas.com, "Obviously, I made a terrible mistake. It was very bad and stupid on my part." But he was mostly kind of full of it: "When you tweet like I did, you can't see the sarcasm. It's not a good joke. You can't tell if it was pure hate or sarcasm." We're with him on the "not a good joke" part.
The Daycare Worker Who Mocked Children
It's what everyone looks for in a caretaker: a passion for mocking children over their appearance and disabilities, along with a high level of social media engagement. A daycare worker at A Heavenly Haven Learning Center in Newport News, Virginia, made headlines for making fun of the children in their care on Instagram. One post paired a photo of a boy who looks sad with a caption reading, "I'm sick of this shit!!" A comment below this charming image says, "he really looks like that's exactly what's he is thinking cuz he sure can't talk. LMAO." (Subsequent reports indicated that the child "can't talk" because of a speech delay.) The worker was fired after the kid's mom found the posts on Instagram; the daycare cited its record as a "Christian-based Childcare Development Center." Isn't that reassuring?
The GOP Staffer Who Slutshamed Sasha and Malia Obama
You would think a communications director for a congressman would have some grasp on what and how to communicate through social media. But Elizabeth Lauten, communications director for Republican Rep. Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, defied expectations and etiquette when she decided to pen an open letter on Facebook to the daughters of the President of the United States, chiding them for looking bored during the annual White House turkey pardoning ceremony. The condescending, petty and embarrassingly off letter read as follows:
"Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you're both in those awful teen years, but you're a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play. Then again your mother and father don't respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I'm guessing you're coming up a little short in the 'good role model' department. Nevertheless, stretch yourself. Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don't make faces during televised public events."
Nothing says classy like slutshaming the president's teenage daughters. Lauten apologized and then resigned.
The Russian Paramedic Who Took Selfies With Dying Patients
Whatever tensions may rise between the U.S. and Russia, it is heartwarming to know that the two countries are united by a stupidity that transcends borders and politics. Tatiana Kulikova worked as a paramedic in Kirov, Russia. She enjoyed her work, if by work we mean taking selfies in the ambulance with unconscious and sometimes dying patients and posting them on Instagram. She also took the time to add helpful captions and titles and strike creative poses. In one photo, for instance, which she called "another moron," she is flipping the bird toward a man who has been in a car accident. She captioned another photo of a man having a heart attack with, "how I hate my job." Lucky for her, she no longer has it.
The Neo-Nazi Hockey Coach
Chris Sandau worked as a youth hockey coach at the North Delta Minor Hockey Association in Canada. When a parent complained that his Facebook page featured pro-Nazi propaganda – like images of swastikas and Adolf Hitler and posts suggesting that the Holocaust didn't happen – the hockey club didn't fire Sandau. They merely asked him to remove the Nazi stuff from Facebook. Sandau refused, articulately stating that he wasn't "trying to impose my political beliefs or anything." He added that he's just a "history buff" – you know, the kind of history buff who denies the Holocaust, no big deal. At this point the association fired him – but they can't stop him from continuing to share his repellent views on Facebook. "Does the truth offend Jew?" he wrote. "There there, you'll get over it someday . . ." The puns are almost worse than the rank bigotry.
The Assisted-Living Staffer Who Took a Photo of a Client on the Toilet
An employee at Deer Crest Assisted Living Home in Red Wing, Minnesota, thought it would be totally appropes to take a photo of a client on the toilet and then upload it to Instagram. We know what some of you are thinking: "Maybe it was an innocent mistake. Maybe the woman had no idea it was bad to broadcast an assisted-living facility client's image during what should be a private moment. Who could predict anyone would have a problem with that?" Alas, it turns out, the employee handbook explicitly states that photos of clients are prohibited. So, there's that.
The Waiters Who Complained About “Cheap Jews”
Two employees of a Delaware Thai-Japanese restaurant were fired after posting photos of credit card receipts on Instagram and tagging them with offensive hashtags. One example is so stupid it's hard to believe: One waiter, using the clever Instagram handle Fumanchu85, posted a photo of a bill that came out to $53.80, with a measly tip of $5.20. Fumanchu85's caption: "What do you expect from a last name like that?… #cheap #jew." Confusing matters further, reports indicate that the customer in question had "an Indian surname." Huh?
The Teacher Who Facebook-Creeped on His Students
Chadwin Reynolds, a high school teacher in the Bronx, added several female students on Facebook and left comments like "this is sexy" under their photos. Reynolds wanted to make sure nobody was missing the creepy "I'm a total pervert" vibes he was sending out through his Facebook comments – so, just to be sure, he had a catchy Facebook tagline that concisely captured his sketchiness: "I'm not a gynecologist, but I'll take a look inside." He was fired.
The Cop Who Documented Her Own Police Brutality
Senior Corporal Cat Lafitte of Dallas claimed she was acting in self-defense when she threw her boot at a hospital worker. Unfortunately for her, her Facebook posts tell another story. Lafitte thought it would be a good idea to brag on Facebook, "I threw my boot at him, Jerry Springer style, and nailed him in the face. It broke his glasses and cut his face and bruised it up real good." Lafitte also posted to Facebook a photo of a small black boy surrounded by police officers and the comment, "Quick . . . sprinkle some crack on him!" An equal opportunity offender, Lafitte also disrespects homeless people and described herself on Facebook as an "Official Bum Roller." She was fired for the attack on the hospital worker and for Facebook posts that put the department in a bad light.
The Blackface Halloween Costume That Made Fun of Trayvon Martin
Two white guys named William Filene and Greg Cimeno decided to join forces and work together on a horrifically offensive Halloween costume. One would be George Zimmerman and the other would be Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager whom Zimmerman infamously murdered. It's hard to say which of the two bigoted revelers was luckier. Sure, one got to dress up as their racist vigilante hero – but the other got to wear blackface, which apparently some racist morons find super-fun. When Caitlin Cimeno, a Massachusetts mother of two who posed with the two numbskulls, posted a deeply disturbing image of the group to Instagram – so awful that we're not including it in this post – the Facebook user Stop Blackface on Halloween contacted her employer and was told she had already been fired. More time for Halloween costume-planning!
The Jeb Bush Employee Who Ranted Against Sluts and Gays
Ethan Czahor was the chief technology officer for Jeb Bush's political action committee, Right to Rise, until he was forced to step down over some offensive tweets. To be fair, he did start deleting the social media trail he had left behind him, but it was too late. The screenshots had been taken. In a uniquely American twist, Czahor went on to invent an app that scans your social media accounts for things that could get you fired or force you to resign. And he would know.