Celebs Withdraw Support of Bullied Student Keaton Jones
Who is Keaton Jones, the sixth-grade student whose teary video went viral Friday (December 8)? And why were his cries about bullying immediately met by passionate support from celebrities, only for his story to then suddenly be eclipsed by controversy?
Consider this your Keaton Jones explainer.
On Friday afternoon, a woman named Kimberly Jones posted a video of her crying son Keaton, a student at Horace Maynard Middle School in Maynardville, Tennessee, to her Facebook page (the post has since been removed). Keaton recounted several installments of severe bullying, and said his classmates had mocked him by pouring milk on him and sticking lunch meats in his clothes.
"Why do they find joy in taking innocent people and finding a way to be mean to them?" he tearfully asked. "People that are different don't need to be criticized about it. It's not their fault."
Keaton ultimately conceded that he would "stay strong, I guess," then added, "it's hard, but it will probably get better one day."
For Keaton, though, that day came sooner than later, and landed with dizzying intensity. After the video began to draw millions of views (nearly 20 million on Kimberly's original post, to be exact), celebrities like Gal Gadot, Chris Evans and Michael Keaton took notice and began advocating for Keaton, going as far as to invite him to exclusive movie premieres and sports events. Rihanna called him a "hero," according to Rap-Up. Snoop Dogg insisted "U gotta friend in me for life." Justin Bieber offered "Hit me on dm and we can chat!"
What went up came crashing down, though, as people who were interested in the story uncovered some troubling details as they began to investigate details of Keaton's family.
It didn't take much sleuthing to discover that Kimberly had posted a handful of photos to her Facebook page that featured her family members holding Confederate flags. In other posts, Kimberly Jones criticized the Black Lives Matter movement, a particular point of hypocrisy — as many Twitter users observed: How could she expect support for her son's plight on one hand, while mocking the efforts to mitigate the struggles of others?
Moreover, how could she plead for the end of bullying when she, herself, has been guilty of it?
Kimberly offered a tired excuse for the images and rhetoric during a Tuesday morning (December 12) appearance on Good Morning America, but the damage had been done.
"I feel like anybody who wants to take the time to ask anybody who I am or even troll through some other pictures, I mean, I feel like we’re not racist,” she said. “I mean, people that know us, know that."
All the while, a GoFundMe page organized on Keaton's behalf by a man named Joseph Lam has amassed more than $58,000 (USA Today confirmed the account has been temporarily shut off).
Professional MMA fighter Joe Schilling told the site he — moved by Keaton's story — reached out to an Instagram account he thought was Kimberly's to offer emotional support to the family, but was only met by requests for cash, according to USA Today.
"[Kimberly] just wants money. She just wants me to share her GoFundMe account," Schilling said in a now-deleted Instagram video. "She said Christmas is coming and I'm a single mother and blah blah blah, money is tight, whatever...Make your own judgment on that. Sad."
Still, Schilling conceded that the account — @kimberlyjones_38 — may have been a fake one. It has since been deleted.
Now, many early Keaton-allies — celebrities among them — are withdrawing support. Some have pointed out that blindly glamorizing Keaton's, admittedly, heartbreaking story without conducting requisite research was dangerous. Others have added that many children of color have offered similarly tragic bullying stories but have received no such recognition or support from Hollywood.
Many cited the story of 10-year-old Ashawnty Davis as evidence — her bullying was well-documented before she ultimately committed suicide in November, according to CNN.
YouTube + Vine Stars Who Hit it Big: