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Star subsequently issues 2 non-apologies.
This weekend ’80s icon Rob Lowe became the latest star to step in the line of fire on social media. In a since-deleted tweet, the 54-year-old actor wrote, “Elizabeth Warren would bring a whole new meaning to Commander in Chief,” an apparent reference to the controversy over the Democratic senator from Massachusetts’ claims of Native American ancestry, for which she has since apologized.
Twitter was not amused.
Many felt the joke reminiscent of the president’s divisive, racially charged rhetoric, akin to a tweet in which Trump again referred to Warren as “Pocahontas” and apparently referenced the forced removal of Native Americans from the Southeast in the Trail of Tears, which killed thousands and caused unimaginable suffering.
Lowe’s fellow former teen idols soon jumped on the pile, with the likes of Alyssa Milano tweeting, “Tonight, the role of Scott Baio will be played by Rob Lowe.” (Baio is an outspoken Trump supporter.) Mark Hammill drew a parallel between the story of deleted emails that has long plagued Hillary Clinton, tweeting, “’Indian heritage’ is the new ‘But her E-mails…!’”
Plenty of people brought up Lowe’s 1988 sex tape with a 16-year-old girl, a scandal which his career barely survived.
Lowe later tweeted that he was making “a joke and some peeps got upset” and, for some reason, demonstrated ignorance of what an Oxford comma is, giving grammar nerds everywhere a chance to weigh in.
The star, whose recent Twitter history includes a string of tweets slamming JW Marriott Hotels, a professed dislike for non-Italians who say “ciao” rather than “goodbye,” and something about “fart noises and pretension,” continued his non-apology tour in more succinct, though still finger-pointing fashion, tweeting, “Observation: Many polarizing politicians actually LIKE each other, privately help each other, then publicly stir the pot, playing for votes. That’s fine. Only thing wrong with it is when we buy it whole cloth, breeding intolerance, anger and total inability to laugh at ANYTHING.” (Side note: No Oxford comma.)
Lowe did have his defenders, however, even among people who felt the joke was in poor taste, such as filmmaker Brian Koppelman, who in two tweets, said he was “a fan” and “would love to work [with] you sometime,” but that the reference to “chief” echoed Trump’s rhetoric, which has moved the Overton window and “made racism acceptable.”
Conservatives reacted predictably to what they viewed as another example of excessive political correctness and humorlessness among liberals, with many suggesting that Lowe should not have given in to the mob. “Disappointing. Never thought you were the type of person who would allow yourself to be bullied by online trolls,” one wrote. “The trolls got him…another one bites the dust,” said another.
Producer and director Robby Starbuck was among the relatively small chorus of voices blaming Warren for bringing the controversy on herself.
Warren has thus far remained silent on the issue, apparently preferring to focus her efforts on the presidential campaign she launched on Saturday.
The only surprising thing about the kerfuffle is that no one thought to make a joke about Lowe’s upcoming show “Mental Samurai,” which is being billed as “the first-ever obstacle course … for the mind.”
Claire Goforth is a Jacksonville, Florida-based journalist covering politics, culture, justice, and unicorns. Her work has appeared in publications ranging from regional alt-weeklies to Al Jazeera.