The Onion, known for skewering anyone famous, crossed the line with their tweet on Quvenzhané Wallis.
The Onion satirizes the news with a "nothing is sacred" attitude, and that attitude, combined with twitter and the existence of 9 year-old Best Actress Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis stumbled the Onion into a PR landmine on Oscar night. The tweet read, "Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhané Wallis is kind of a ___" where the blank space was filled by a word that starts with c and rhymes with "bunt," and if you would like to see it in all its glory, you can click here.
The Quvenzhané Wallis tweet remained up for an hour, before an angry backlash prompted the Onion to take it down and for the CEO of the Onion, Steve Hannah, to apologize:
Hannah also stated that the Onion's twitter policies would be tightened, and that the people responsible would be disciplined. It's a solid apology, but we shouldn't be too drawn in by the claim that the Quvenzhané Wallis tweet was so out of character for the Onion. The fawning media is a favorite target of the Onion, they just picked one of the worst words that people still use, and then aimed it at Quvenzhané Wallis, who is at an age where kids are learning grammar and multiplication tables.
While I can't defend the Onion here, I will point out that they cracked jokes about 9/11 and the Iraq War immediately after they happened, and they probably lost more readers over Quvenzhané Wallis. Maybe that's the correct response, and I do think that they crossed a line here that was not in play for other events, but I can also understand an Onion writer not knowing just where that line is.