Lesson Learned

Let the Texas Tweetgate Now End

If you haven’t heard by now you probably soon will: a University of Texas student had a lapse in judgment yesterday and tweeted to her 480 followers that assassinating President Obama might sound “tempting”—but that no one should do it.

Shortly after news broke that a man accused of firing gun shots at the White House had been arrested, Lauren Pierce, president of UT’s College Republicans, wrote: “Y’all as tempting as it may be, don’t shoot Obama. We need him to go down in history as the WORST president we’ve EVER had! #2012.”

Within seconds, Twitter was ablaze, and within an hour ABC had a post on its political blog The Note with the headline that focused on just that first part of what she said: “Texas College GOP Leader: Obama Assassination ‘Tempting’.” Around the media echo chamber it rang, on the Texas Tribune, the Huffington Post, Houston Chronicle, Gawker, BET, and the International Business Times. Comedy Central actually found it funny.

By no means do I excuse what Pierce said—I agree with her boss, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, whose spokesman told the Tribune, “Rhetoric like this is unacceptable. It does nothing more than distract from the real issues facing our country.”

But let’s remember one thing: behind that Twitter handle is a 20-year-old kid. Yes, she made a mistake. Yes, she should and has been asked to step down as president of the College Republicans. Yes, she should (and has) apologized. Let the media pile-on now end.

Pierce’s subsequent tweets read like someone who knows they messed up: “I apologize for my previous tweet. It was in poor taste and and should never have been written.” … “It’s never funny to joke about such a serious matter. I have learned a very valuable lesson.” … And “Again, I apologize to everyone that was offended.”

A university is meant to be a place where students learn and grow, and one of the best ways to do both is by making mistakes. Remember the 20-year-old version of you? Remember the many dumb things you said that you wish you could have back? Let’s cut this girl some slack.

She has apologized. She will be punished. And hopefully she will learn. The question now is what we want that lesson to be, and how we as adults behave will largely determine what it is.

If we continue to rub her face in the mistake, she might arrive at the wrong conclusion: that the basest forms of political dialogue—like what she wrote in her tweet—are, in fact, OK.

Or we can show her that thoughtful, respectful discussions are far more productive and far better for our society.

Wouldn’t that be a lesson we could all stand to re-learn?


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