As the world mourned the passing of Nelson Mandela, politicians, celebrities, and other public figures expressed their sadness over the loss of the freedom fighter and former South African president. But then there were those who did not react with the dignity the occasion merits.
Here are some of the worst responses:
1. Failed presidential candidate Rick Santorum took the opportunity to politicize Mandela’s death, comparing Mandela’s struggle against apartheid and racism to Republican opposition to Obamacare. “[Mandela] was fighting against some great injustice, and I would make the argument that we have a great injustice going on right now in this country with an ever-increasing size of government that is taking over and controlling people’s lives, and Obamacare is front and center in that,” Santorum said on Fox News on Thursday night.
2. Other political pundits decided it was the right time to label Mandela a “communist,” which, as CNN explained soon after, is just not true. First there was Bill O’Reilly, who described Mandela as a “great man, but he was a Communist.” And, as Mother Jones pointed out, PJ Media had the same idea, running with the headline: “Communist Icon Nelson Mandela Dead at 95.”
3. Gaz, The “star” of the British MTV’s Geordie Shore, decided to go with a little bit of self-promotion, tweeting about his upcoming single: “In light of the sad news tonight gonna give away 4 pairs of tickets to the #UpYourGame launch party tomorrow nite x.” He soon after deleted the tweet.
4. Former Deadline Hollywood reporter Nikki Finke, meanwhile, made it all about the Oscar prospects for the recently-released Mandela biopic, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom:
R.I.P. Nelson Mandela, subject of Weinstein Co’s Idris Elba-starrer ‘Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom’ which opened Nov 29 and has awards buzz.
— Nikki Finke (@NikkiFinke) December 5, 2013
5. Then there was PR writer Shawn Paul Wood, who wrote this ill-conceived article about how “Nelson Mandela’s Death Should Breathe New Life into PR.” He writes: “Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was known as “Madiba,” “Tata,” “Khulu,” “46664″ and a father figure to the world. And PR agencies can learn a thing or two from the enormous footsteps he left for us to follow.” Though the article stipulates that PR campaigns are “nowhere near this serious and paramount to the needs of mankind,” Wood does add: “I challenge PR professionals to look within your clients and see something greater. See something that will outlast them. Even if they make the clips that fasten open chip bags, there is a way that product can be used for more than keeping Doritos fresh.”
6. And then of course there were those Twitter denizens who managed to confuse Mandela with…Morgan Freeman:
Damn, RIP Nelson Mandela. That dude was like a god pic.twitter.com/GMVMIJB0T5
— ARIZONA 8-0 (@JaeFromAZ) December 5, 2013
— Aleks (@AlexisLuK) December 5, 2013
Despite these reactions, there was at least one company that realized how not to respond to Mandela’s death: South African Airways very quickly cancelled a PR campaign touting its Mandela-themed tour of the country, meant to coincide with the release of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. A press release about the trip had been put out on Thursday morning, but was pulled shortly after news of Mandela’s death broke.
And, of course, The Onion gave everyone a crash course in how to craft a legitimately funny and non-offensive response to the beloved leader’s death: “Nelson Mandela Becomes First Politician To Be Missed.”
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