American Apparel blames ‘international’ employee for posting Challenger photo

The day before the Fourth of July, the brand’s Tumblr reblogged a famous image of the space shuttle exploding with the tags ‘#smoke’ and ‘#clouds.’


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.

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:

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.”

Reactions were mixed.

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