In the realm of social media offenses, American Apparel may have committed one of the absolute worst over the weekend. On the afternoon of July 3, the brand’s Tumblr reblogged an image of the space shuttle Challenger exploding. The tags “#smoke” and “#clouds” were appended, and someone had changed the background from a blue sky to a bright red field. It was clearly supposed to be a celebratory Fourth of July post. Quite a few observers on Twitter and Tumblr immediately recognized the photo of the 1986 tragedy that killed seven astronauts.
— kenyatta cheese (@kenyatta) July 3, 2014
People speculated about whether the post was American Apparel intentionally stoking controversy—something it has done before—or it was posted by someone too young to remember the disaster. At least one millennial said she had seen the image in the context of the disaster, even though she was born after it happened:
— Emma M. (@MaryTylerMog) July 3, 2014
Nonetheless, American Apparel took the naïveté tack in the apology it posted to Twitter several hours after the original post. It claimed the social media manager who reblogged the image was both too young to remember the Challenger disaster and “international.”
With our sincerest apologies: pic.twitter.com/BOF43jScV0
— American Apparel (@americanapparel) July 3, 2014
Reactions were mixed.
@americanapparel Send your outsourced employee a history book and take ‘American’ out of your business name now.
— David Landrum (@davidlandrum) July 3, 2014
@americanapparel As someone greatly affected by that tragedy, I appreciate your apology and sensitivity.
— Reubal Studios (@reubal) July 3, 2014
@americanapparel Being born AFTER an event is no excuse. I was born AFTER World War 2, but I still know it happened!!
— Michelle (@carolinagirl_70) July 4, 2014
@americanapparel good on ya. Thx for explaining.
— kenyatta cheese (@kenyatta) July 4, 2014