Former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly drew a double backlash after one of his tweets praising Winston Churchill and then another tweet apologizing for the first tweet were both met with criticism over the weekend.
“One of the greatest leaders of modern times, Sir Winston Churchill said, ‘in victory, magnanimity.’ I guess those days are over,” Kelly said in his initial tweet.
The post sparked fierce debate, with some Twitter users blaming Churchill for the Bengal famine of 1943 and calling him a murderer.
“He was a mass murderer. Check out the records on the bengal famine of India where his policies and decisions led to the death of millions due to starvation and disease,” one person commented.
“A mass murderer can never be a great leader,” said another Twitter user.
Several hours later, Kelly fired off an apology tweet.
“Did not mean to offend by quoting Churchill,” he said. “My apologies. I will go and educate myself further on his atrocities, racist views which I do not support. My point was we need to come together as one nation. We are all Americans. That should transcend partisan politics.”
That tweet received much greater criticism than the first as many accused Kelly of backing down on his beliefs and opinions. Some mocked him for being swayed by a few online trolls.
One Twitter user pointed out that “the only atrocity” was Kelly’s apology, adding that this was what was “wrong with America” and pointing towards people such as Kelly for apologizing and compromising their own principles.
Kelly’s online ordeal came shortly after he toured the Auschwitz concentration camp. Churchill headed up the U.K. effort in the Allied defeat of Nazi Germany, the Washington Times noted, which could explain Kelly’s motivation behind his first tweet.
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