The timeline for Twitter controversy is usually predictable: offensive tweet, collective outrage, an online mea culpa and corporate consequences. But in the recent case of Peter Fonda and Sony Pictures Classics, there’s been a twist to the ending that has Donald Trump Jr. booing loudly.
Actor Peter Fonda proposed Monday in a since-deleted tweet that 12-year-old Barron Trump be taken from his mother, first lady Melania Trump, and “put in a cage with pedophiles.” The 78-year-old apologized Wednesday, and hours later, Sony, the company behind his latest film, distanced itself from Fonda’s tweet but said the movie would still open in theaters Friday.
Donald Trump Jr., who repeatedly called on Sony Pictures to denounce Fonda, suggested that the company’s decision to still release the film, in which Fonda plays a supporting role, pointed to a double standard between conservative and liberal responses to culture controversies. “If you’re a conservative,” Trump Jr. wrote, “you’d face real consequences.”
Trump Jr. had wondered aloud on Twitter if Fonda would face the same fate as comedian Roseanne Barr, whose successful sitcom reboot was pulled from ABC after she compared Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett to an ape.
The tweet in question from Fonda was unquestionably horrible. Apparently upset about the forced separation of undocumented children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, Fonda ranted in all caps that “WE SHOULD RIP BARRON TRUMP FROM HIS MOTHER’S ARMS AND PUT HIM IN A CAGE WITH PEDOPHILES AND SEE IF MOTHER WILL WILL STAND UP AGAINST THE GIANT [expletive] SHE IS MARRIED TO.”
The tweet drew criticism from the first lady’s office and the Secret Service was notified. In his apology Wednesday, Fonda said that he “went way too far” and that his tweet was “highly inappropriate and vulgar.”
“It was wrong,” his statement continued, “and I should not have done it. I immediately regretted it and sincerely apologize to the family for what I said and any hurt my words have caused.”
In its own statement that evening, Sony called Fonda’s tweet “abhorrent, reckless and dangerous.” The company also made sure to highlight that Fonda’s role in the film is “minor,” adding that removing the actor from the film would “unfairly penalize the filmmaker Shana Feste’s accomplishment, the many actors, crew members and other creative talent that worked hard on the project.”
“Boundaries” is a comedy starring Vera Farmiga as a single mother who takes a road trip with her estranged father, played by Christopher Plummer, after her pot-dealing dad gets kicked out of his nursing home.
Sony added in its statement that the movie will debut as scheduled with a “limited release of five theaters.”