A Plymouth woman who claims she was just being herself is catching heat from thousands of people on the Internet, calling for her to be fired from her job, after she posted a picture of herself flipping the bird and pretending to shout next to a sign at the Arlington National Cemetery in October.
The photo, which has been taken down, was first posted last month, and showed Lindsey Stone, a Massachusetts native, giving the middle finger while pretending to yell next to a sign that read “Silence and Respect” at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Stone took the photo while on a trip to Washington, D.C. with her work.
The controversial photo, posted on Stone’s personal Facebook page, led to a series of online complaints and to Stone being put on leave at her job.
Stone’s employer, Living Independently Forever, Inc., or LIFE, a Hyannis-based non-profit organization, issued a statement on their Facebook page on Tuesday following complaints about the photo:
On Nov. 19 at approximately 6 p.m., we became aware that one of our employees had posted an offensive, inappropriate photograph on her personal Facebook page. The photo was taken at a national historic site in October by a fellow employee during a trip to Washington, D.C. attended by 40 residents and eight staff. The photo has since been removed from Facebook, and both employees have been placed on unpaid leave pending the results of an internal investigation.
The company said Stone’s photo does not reflect their own opinions and that they are “acutely aware that this photo has done a disservice to veterans.”
“We are deeply saddened that it was taken and shared in a public medium,” they wrote.
But an investigation and temporary leave from the job wasn’t enough for some Internet-users.
Soon after, a Facebook page was created called “Fire Lindsey Stone,” and garnered more than 9,000 “likes” by 8 p.m., and thousands of comments. The group’s creator said they “will only accept termination.”
“Now on unpaid leave and hopefully fired soon. Thank you all for your support of our brothers and sisters not here to defend themselves. Keep it classy. We’re making waves all over. All we want is her job. And I can taste it!,” the Facebook page’s administrators wrote.
The controversy was quickly scooped up by national publications such as Gawker and Huffington Post.
While some people lashed out at Stone and her co-worker, who was also put on leave for taking the photo, others came to her defense.
“I must respectfully disagree with the clamor to get this woman fired. While her actions were most certainly disrespectful to the point of idiocy, the loss of her job could cause more trouble than it’s worth,” wrote Kel Miller on the anti-Stone Facebook page.
A “Don’t Fire Lindsey Stone” Facebook page was also created, however, it had a mere 19 “likes,” compared to the thousands on the rival site.
“Did she do something lame and not funny? Yeah, but that doesn’t merit hateful comments or threats to her life. Doesn’t mean that she should lose her job because of a few thousand people selectively outraged by offenses against the troops,” the page administrator wrote.
According to the Examiner.com, Stone initially reacted to an outburst from friends and family for posing in the picture in October, saying she meant no harm.
“Whoa whoa whoa… wait. This is just us, being the douchebags that we are, challenging authority in general,” Stone wrote on her Facebook page. “Much like the pic posted the night before, of me smoking right next to a no smoking sing. OBVIOUSLY we meant NO disrespect to people that serve or have served our country.”
Stone could not be reached for additional comment since the photo went viral.
Local news station WBZ reached out to Stone’s family, who said they were appalled by their daughter’s actions, however.
“She had no intention of upsetting or offending anyone,” Peter Stone told the news station. “It was poor judgment and she regrets every part of it.”
Stone and the woman who took the photo issued an apology later Tuesday night, according to WBZ. The complete statement is below.
We sincerely apologize for all the pain we have caused by posting the picture we took in Washington DC on Facebook. While posted on a public forum, the picture was intended only for our own amusement. We never meant any disrespect to any of the people nationwide who have served this country and defended our freedom so valiantly. It was meant merely as a visual pun, intending to depict the exact opposite of what the sign said, and had absolutely nothing to do with the location it was taken or the people represented there. We never meant to cause any harm or disrespect to anyone, particularly our men and women in uniform. We realize it was in incredibly poor taste, and are deeply sorry for the offense we have caused.
We would also like to apologize to LIFE, Inc. It is an amazing organization that provides invaluable services to adults with learning and developmental disabilities. We are beyond remorseful that our actions have caused them such undue public scrutiny. The disrespect implied by our picture has nothing at all to do with LIFE’s mission statement or values. We regret having caused any suffering to the staff members, residents, families and friends.
Again, we very sincerely apologize to everyone who took offense to the photo. We realize that it was an ignorant and distasteful thing for us to do, but we truly meant no harm. We are deeply sorry.