On Friday, Terry Rossio, the screenwriter responsible for Shrek, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Aladdin, was trying to think of a way to defend a widely criticized subset of people: vaccine skeptics. He went with using the worst racial slur imaginable in the permanently screenshot-able format of a Twitter post. After comparing the denunciation of anti-vaxxers to calling someone the N-word (he did not abbreviate), Rossio later deleted the tweet and on Sunday issued an apology.
In a three-part statement on Twitter, Rossio wrote that his use of the N-word was “a mistake” and that the word “has no place in any conversation, ever.” He elaborated, “You can’t make a point against hate speech and reference actual words of hate speech. That was insensitive and ignorant.” He ended the apology by stating, “I continue to stand against hate speech and dehumanizing labels in any form.”
Rossio’s original tweet, in response to writer Julie Benson’s post calling for people to contribute to vaccination efforts, read:
My heart goes out to all the parents of vaccine damaged children, who have to not only endure the sadness of their loss, but also the vitriol of ill-informed and insensitive people (such as those here). Anti-Vax is equivalent to calling someone a n—–r and makes as little sense.
Twitter users pointed out that this comparison is both insulting and absurd, including screenwriter Jeff Grubb, who wrote in a tweet that has also now been deleted:
God, this is such a good point. I remember how American founders and citizens enslaved vaccine skeptics for decades. And then, even after freeing them, the government enshrined laws to marginalize vaccine deniers and to deny them wealth and opportunity. That’s just history.
Rossio’s apology, while apparently regretful, continues to imply an equivalency between “hate speech” directed towards anti-vaxxers and that directed towards black Americans, failing to address much of the criticism against the screenwriter.