Public figures have trouble staying out of trouble in the age of Twitter


Movie producer and onetime Hugh Jackman business partner John Palermo has joined the ranks of public figures great and small who have received harsh lessons regarding the dangers of social media after homophobic and racist Facebook posts put him in the hot seat this week. Palermo bucked tradition, though, by declining to apologize, telling the Hollywood Reporter, “I’ve got nothing to lose.”

Palermo, producer of several big-ticket films like 2011’s “Drive” and 2006’s “X-Men: The Last Stand,” often turned heads with jaw-dropping Facebook comments. He said that gay CNN host Anderson Cooper “smells like lube and HIV” and remarked on Kanye West’s purchase of a Bel-Air mansion with, “Money can’t buy a dumb nigga class.” Now he’s canned the page, saying that it was “too easy for things to be misread.”

Palermo is hardly the first person to find his social media profile a bit too visible. Earlier this year, Alec Baldwin had to apologize for calling gay Daily Mail reporter George Stark a “toxic little queen” and tweeting “I’d put my foot up your ass, George Stark, but I’m sure you’d dig it too much.” Scottish soccer star Fraser Mullen got in trouble for a September 30 tweet aimed at a nameless night club antagonist: “To the homosexual who ruined my night: Thanks, you poof. Bore off and grow a set.” And Boxer Tyson Fury spent the last two days tweeting obscenity-laced tirades at professional rivals, including comments that Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko are “100% homosexual.”

This poses the question: How can these people not know any better? Aren’t public figures trained to protect their image? They should be says Ronn Torossian, CEO of 5W Public Relations, but in this day and age you can’t always save people from themselves. “We’ve had clients whose passwords we’ve had to change in the middle of the night so that they’re not tweeting while drinking,” Torossian told 429Magazine. “They think of Twitter as like a conversation they’re having with friends, but Twitter is really an ongoing, nonstop press conference.”

Jonathan Hay of Jonathan Hay Publicity says that social media is a “nightmare” for the field and that for some people no amount of training, consulting, or prepping can counter “pride, ego, and feelings.” 

“Ten years ago we didn’t have this problem,” Hay told 429Magazine. “People would get mad and fly off the handle but they’d have to wait a day to get it into print. Now media is right there all the time, and once you’re done there’s nothing to help except issue public responses the next day that no one believes anyway.”

How does a big name like Baldwin or an insider like Palermo bounce back from public homophobia? “Well, just wait, because the next guy to do it is right in line behind you, and hopefully once he does everyone will forget about you,” Hay says.

Palermo, 34, was an assistant to (openly gay) director Bryan Singer on 2000’s “X-Men.” There he met Jackman and the two founded Seed Productions in 2005. They parted ways and folded the company five years later, and Palermo told Hollywood Reporter he’s now “unemployed and living in the Valley.”


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