Tennessee middle school student Keaton Jones rose to internet fame over the weekend after a video of him talking of being repeatedly bullying at school rallied widespread support from actor Chris Evans to rapper Snoop Dogg to first son Donald Trump Jr.
But now Keaton’s mother is facing backlash after internet sleuths dug up old photos of her reportedly posing with a Confederate flag.
The video of a crying Keaton telling his mother, Kimberly Jones, that bullying at school had gotten out of control went mega-viral since Friday. Football players at the University of Tennessee pledged to visit the boy’s school and invited him to a Tennessee Titans game. Chris Evans invited him to a screening of the next “Avengers” movie. UFC President Dana White invited him to visit the UFC Headquarters. The Knoxville Police Department even said it would offer anti-bullying training for his school, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
The principal of Horace Maynard Middle School where Keaton is a student said the school was rallying behind the boy and that he would be taken care of from here on out.
But the story took a turn Monday after a photo circulated of Keaton’s mother smiling with the Confederate flag. Another photo showed Keaton holding the U.S. flag and another young boy holding the Confederate flag. A Facebook post purportedly by Ms. Jones criticized “butt hurt Americans” and another declared, “I stand for the flag.”
That viral video of #KeatonJones talking about being bullied is heartbreaking, and I feel sympathetic towards that child.— Tariq Nasheed (@tariqnasheed) December 11, 2017
But his mom, Kimberly on the other hand, is a suspected racist who makes very problematic posts bullying Black protesters #TheIronypic.twitter.com/NUhidunP8z
I’ve seen her posts and if true, I’d say there’s potential for a great, teachable moment here. My offer for Keaton to visit ESPN stands, because what happened to him was cruel. That said, this is a stark example of selective empathy. https://t.co/XbZ9NpKJe2
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) December 11, 2017
damn. we gave it long enough, and that kid keaton became a polarizing figure.— El Flaco (@bomani_jones) December 11, 2017
This is in response to my offering Saturday night regarding #keatonjones#bullying which touched a nation and in a fit of happiness the world was good. If what I’m hearing about his mother’s #racism is true-shame on you #KimberlyJones I’m still #KeatonStrong but #racism isn’t on pic.twitter.com/eFj2AmK0Rp— TheRealNickStevenson (@nickstevenson11) December 11, 2017
Others said Keaton shouldn’t be judged for the actions of his mother and that bullying in all forms is unacceptable.
Keaton didn’t get to choose the family that raised & shaped him, you smug ghoul. How ‘bout showing him that people of all races & creeds can come together? Change things, maybe? Show him a better world? https://t.co/BZqBEboabL— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) December 11, 2017
Keaton can’t change who his parents are….but hopefully he can learn from his life experiences an break the cycle of passed down racism. Hopefully his mom also realizes how beautiful the human race is as a whole an reconsiders her ignorant views #KeatonJones— Millyz (@MILLYZ) December 11, 2017
Learning that Keaton’s family are supportive of the confederate flag is disappointing for me as a person of colour but I still feel that this child, yes CHILD, deserves to be treated with respect & should not be bullied. The beliefs/hypocrisy of his parents is another issue. 1/2 https://t.co/eAS6AxqJ8I— Nathalie Emmanuel (@missnemmanuel) December 11, 2017
Ms. Jones spoke Tuesday to CBS News and defended her photos of the Confederate flag, saying she meant no offense.
“The only two photos on my entire planet that I am anywhere near a Confederate flag,” she said, laughing. “It was ironic. It was funny.”
Asked if there was any “racist intent” behind the photos, Ms. Jones responded, “No. No. Absolutely not. I’ve said I spent most of my life being bullied and judged because I wasn’t racist.”
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