Roger Ebert Forced to Defend His Ryan Dunn Tweets

by Greg Pollowitz

On the night of Ryan Dunn’s car crash, in which he and a passenger were killed, Roger Ebert tweeted:

“Jackass” star Ryan Dunn, RIP. His Porsche flew through 40 yards of trees. http://bit.ly/jn2qWV

And, then, roughly 40 minutes later, Ebert tweeted:

Friends don’t let jackasses drink and drive.

This unleashed a storm of hatred toward Ebert, led by Ryan Dunn’s Jackass co-star Bam Margera:

I just lost my best friend, I have been crying hysterical for a full day and piece of s*** roger ebert has the gall to put in his 2 cents

Followed by:

About a jackass drunk driving and his is one, f*** you! Millions of people are crying right now, shut your fat f***ing mouth!

But what so so bad about Ebert’s tweet? Ebert’s second tweet was responding to what he read in the article he linked to in his first tweet. An excerpt:

The one-car accident happened on Route 322 around 2:30 a.m., according to Officer Geiger with West Goshen police. The 2007 Porsche 911 GT3 shot through about 40 yards of trees before it hit the last one and exploded into flames, according to police. The police press release (.PDF) reads, “Preliminary investigation revealed that speed may have been a contributing factor to the accident.”

Dunn was last seen at Barnaby’s of America in West Chester in the hours before the accident.

“Ryan didn’t appear drunk before he left,” Barnaby’s manager told NBC Philadelphia. That manager said Dunn left the bar around 2 a.m.

Ebert responded the phrasing in his second tweet here. An excerpt:

To begin with, I offer my sympathy to Ryan Dunn’s family and friends, and to those of Zachary Hartwell, who also died in the crash. I mean that sincerely. It is tragic to lose a loved one. I also regret that my tweet about the event was considered cruel. It was not intended as cruel. It was intended as true.

I have no way of knowing if Ryan Dunn was drunk at the time of his death. What I knew before posting my tweet was that not long before his death, he posted a photo on Tumbler showing himself drinking with two friends. I tweeted:

Friends don’t let jackasses drink and drive.

What did I mean by that? I meant exactly what I wrote. I wasn’t calling Ryan Dunn a jackass. In Twitter shorthand, I was referring to his association with “Jackass.” I thought that was clear. I note that Bam Margera uses the word “jackass” in the same way in his tweet. [Tuesday p.m.note: Of course there was a double meaning. I was implying that someone who drinks and drives is a jackass. Just as I was when I was drinking.]

[. . .]

I don’t know what happened in this case, and I was probably too quick to tweet. That was unseemly. I do know that nobody has any business driving on a public highway at 110 mph, as some estimated — or fast enough, anyway, to leave a highway and fly through 40 yards of trees before crashing. That is especially true if the driver has had three shots and three beers. Two people were killed. What if the car had crashed into another car?

Again, I don’t find what Ebert wrote “unseemly.” I find it honest. Ryan Dunn has a previous DUI arrest, as well as numerous citations for speeding. I’m sure Bam is sorry for the loss of his friend, but Dunn’s death was entirely predictable based on his behavior. And there’s nothing wrong with pointing that out.