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The Onion’s apology over an incendiary Oscar night tweet about Quvenzhane Wallis, in which the 9-year-old Beasts of the Southern Wild star was called an offensive term, has drawn criticism disguised as satire from Project X, a website run by several former Onion staffers.
Backed by Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, Thing X was founded in 2012 by a group of New York-based writers who refused to follow the publication to Chicago that same year.
STORY: The Onion Apologizes to Quvenzhane Wallis for C-Word Tweet
Penned by “Steve Banannah, Thing X CEO” — a direct dig at Onion CEO and president Steve Hannah, who penned the real apology — the open letter begins, “On behalf of Thing X, I’d like to offer the following public apology for everything we’ve ever done.”
It then runs through a list of satirical news stories they wish to retract (“I am sorry to the thousands of people who took offense when we suggested that water chestnuts were worse than the Killing Fields of Cambodia”), before offering a tongue-in-cheek mea culpa for anything ever deemed offensive to anyone.
“In addition, let me take this opportunity to apologize to anyone who’s ever been offended by anything at any point throughout time,” the letter continues. “To be challenged in any way, or made to feel an emotion that is not immediately recognizable, is the worst thing in the world.”
The piece is a less-than-subtle critique of the new direction The Onion has taken under Hannah’s stewardship and the effects his unprecedented apology could have on its ability to write effective satire.
STORY: Oscars: The Onion Under Fire for Calling Quvenzhane Wallis the C-Word
Hannah, once a reporter with The Milwaukee Journal, took over at the Onion in 2004. In a 2010 interview with The New York Times, he described himself as “hopelessly old-fashioned” and that he absolutely loathes “a sense of entitlement” in job candidates.
Citing Lt. Gen. Harold Moore, a personal hero and the inspiration for the Mel Gibson film We Were Soldiers, Hannah said, “He taught me that you never, ever do anything to deprive a human being of their dignity in work, in life.”
Hannah also made it clear that when it comes to The Onion’s stock and trade — biting satire — he leaves that up to his writers.
“People say, ‘This guy is going to be a laugh a minute.’ Sadly, it’s a very disappointing evening for them,” Hannah said at the time. “I am the hired help. At The Onion, the creatives are absolutely the center of gravity.”
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