The feel-good story of celebrity support for bullied 11-year-old Keaton Jones took some unfortunate if familiar turns today, with the surfacing of old social media posts suggesting racism in his mom’s recent past. Hollywood, though, seems to be standing by the boy.
“I”m still #KeatonStrong,” tweeted Orange is the New Black‘s Nick Stevenson, while in a video accompanying the tweet he says to Kimberly Jones, “Shame on you. I really want to swear so bad” and “A lot of people are feeling really stupid out there today, including myself.”
“Keaton didn’t get to choose the family that raised & shaped him, you smug ghoul,” tweeted Patton Oswalt to a twitter follower who asked whether he’d withdraw support after the allegations of racism. To another challenger, Oswalt said, “Keaton’s a little kid — his family hasn’t allowed him any real perspective yet.”
See those and other tweets below. And obviously, this story is developing.
A Deadline article Sunday about Hollywood’s support for the boy included numerous celebrity tweets, and even more messages were posted last night and today, including notes of encouragement from Justin Bieber, Terry Crews, Jennifer Lopez, rock band Nickelback, The Walking Dead‘s Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Eyewitness‘ Tyler Young, Lebron James and others.
Last night, Jarrett Guarantano, a freshman quarterback for the University of Tennessee Volunteers, even tweeted that he’d spent the day with his “new best bud” Keaton:
So I got the chance to spend the day with my new best bud Keaton. It was unbelievable to get to know him and realize that we have a lot in common. This dude is very special and has changed my life forever. Now I have the little brother I always wanted! God bless you my man pic.twitter.com/vMHVtnf2rC
— Jarrett Guarantano✞ (@BroadwayJay2) December 11, 2017
But the attention also drew public curiosity and the surfacing of the prior social media posts from Kimberly Jones, Keaton’s mother. In addition to pictures of confederate flags, the old posts crudely criticize Colin Kaepernick and others protesting police brutality against black Americans. Some accounts include allegations of racism against the 11-year-old boy, saying he was bullied because he used racial epithets.
And earlier today, Gregory Clay, the principal of Keaton’s middle school, told local press that bullying isn’t “as rampant as the video would have you believe.” He also said the incident had happened prior to Friday, and the students involved dealt with. He didn’t contradict the incident itself, though: “Everybody saw the video and it was horrible. We don’t want anyone to feel like that. Keaton’s a good kid. We’ll take care of him.”
Kimberly Jones’ Facebook page, which had posted the bullying video, has been either taken down or closed to views.
(An Instagram post, allegedly written by Keaton Jones and apologizing for his mother’s past actions, was deleted after its authenticity was convincingly debunked.)
More than 20 million people over the weekend viewed a viral video of Keaton tearfully asking why bullies bully, and the poignant clip moved numerous Hollywood actors, hip hop artists and athletes to reach out to the boy with support and invitations – including Chris Evans, who asked the boy to attend next year’s L.A. premiere of Avengers: Infinity War.
The attention also drew financial support – a Go Fund Me page for the boy surpassed $58,000 today (Deadline could not verify the page’s connection to the Jones family; by late afternoon, the page had stopped accepting donations.)
Here are some of the latest tweets weighing in:
This is in response to my offering Saturday night regarding #keatonjones #bullying which touched a nation and in a fit of happiness the world was good. If what I’m hearing about his mother’s #racism is true-shame on you #KimberlyJones I’m still #KeatonStrong but #racism isn’t on pic.twitter.com/eFj2AmK0Rp
— TheRealNickStevenson (@nickstevenson11) December 11, 2017
Keaton didn’t get to choose the family that raised & shaped him, you smug ghoul. How ‘bout showing him that people of all races & creeds can come together? Change things, maybe? Show him a better world? https://t.co/BZqBEboabL
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) December 11, 2017
But the Punched Nazi was a grown man who'd dug in on his slimy world view despite years of wider life experience. Keaton's a little kid — his family hasn't allowed him any real perspective yet. Maybe try to stop Keaton from growing up to be a Punched Nazi? https://t.co/Bu6UOC2xBG
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) December 11, 2017
— DL Hughley (@RealDLHughley) December 11, 2017
To those of us with compassion, it should not matter who the boy's mother is. He still is the amazing young man. It would be even more glorious if we put politics aside and continue to send love his way. #KeatonJones #compassionoverparty
— Joe Nieves (@joepnieves) December 11, 2017
Keaton can’t change who his parents are….but hopefully he can learn from his life experiences an break the cycle of passed down racism. Hopefully his mom also realizes how beautiful the human race is as a whole an reconsiders her ignorant views #KeatonJones
— Millyz (@MILLYZ) December 11, 2017
Well I'm inviting Keaton to the Golden Globes and making him sit with the cast of Get Out.
— billy eichner (@billyeichner) December 11, 2017
— Patricia Arquette (@PattyArquette) December 11, 2017
I’ve seen her posts and if true, I’d say there’s potential for a great, teachable moment here. My offer for Keaton to visit ESPN stands, because what happened to him was cruel. That said, this is a stark example of selective empathy. https://t.co/XbZ9NpKJe2
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) December 11, 2017
Learning that Keaton’s family are supportive of the confederate flag is disappointing for me as a person of colour but I still feel that this child, yes CHILD, deserves to be treated with respect & should not be bullied. The beliefs/hypocrisy of his parents is another issue. 1/2 https://t.co/eAS6AxqJ8I
— Nathalie Emmanuel (@missnemmanuel) December 11, 2017
48 hours into this story and a backlash has begun. We’re introduced to the inevitable grey area of a situation. The unified take begins to splinter under its own weight.
— John Mayer (@JohnMayer) December 11, 2017
With the revelations about #KeatonJones family surfacing we must remember a few things. We cannot hold kids accountable for the actions of their parents/family. Though disheartening, we were all moved by the effects of bullying and to end it. Let’s continue to focus on that.
— Parson James (@ParsonJames) December 11, 2017