Roger Ebert enraged many in the blogosphere with a tweet Monday implying that "Jackass" star Ryan Dunn was drinking and driving when he got into a fatal car accident -- and on Tuesday, the film critic apologized.
"I offer my sympathy to Ryan Dunn's family and friends, and to those of Zachary Hartwell, who also died in the crash," Ebert said on his Chicago Sun-Times blog, in a column dedicated to Dunn that includes raw remarks from Bam Margera, the daredevil's longtime costar and friend. "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."
Ebert stood by what he wrote but conceded that he "was probably too quick to tweet. That was unseemly." (Beware: The linked item includes Margera's profane tweets.)
Soon after news of Dunn's death broke Monday, the film critic had critiqued the incident, writing on his Facebook and Twitter pages, "Friends don't let jackasses drink and drive."
Though Ebert said he sent the tweet without knowing if alcohol was involved, reports Monday indicated that 34-year-old TV daredevil Dunn and a friend -- who has been identified as production assistant Zachary Hartwell, 30 -- had been drinking at a Pennsylvania bar prior to the accident that left both men dead. The "Jackass" star lost control of his Porsche before it went over a guardrail and was engulfed in flames in the woods.
Hateful backlash from the loyal "Jackass" fans, the blogosphere and Dunn's friends ensued over what was deemed an "insensitive" tweet.
"I just lost my best friend, I have been crying hysterically for a full day and ... roger ebert has the gall to put in his 2 cents ... About a jackass drunk driving ... Millions of people are crying right now, shut your fat ... mouth!," Margera said in a series of tweets.
"Mr. Ebert, your comments yesterday showed a true lack of tact and your inability to relate with the human race," one commenter wrote on Ebert's Facebook page. "I cannot believe you would, within 24 hours of the incident and before an autopsy, make such a deep and hurtful remark."
"Roger Ebert, your nothing but a lowlife, classless S.O.B. for your comments about Ryan Dunn," another commenter wrote. "Yeah he had some drinks and then drove. Not the best thing to do. But to make comments about it the way that you did, was wrong, low class, and ill advised. You should just shut up and retire and stay out of sight."
"Your page has now become a farce. It used to be about movies, now it's about your tweet[s]," added another.
"Facebook has removed my page in response, apparently, to malicious complaints from one or two jerks," Ebert tweeted after the website temporarily deactivated his account Tuesday. "Facebook! My page is harmless and an asset to you. Why did you remove it in response to anonymous jerks? Makes you look bad."
A rep for the social networking site said that the disciplinary action was an error. The account was deactivated for an hour.
Though Ebert stood by his words Monday and tweeted that people agreed with his earlier statement -- "Perez Hilton's readers agree with me and not with Perez about my tweet on Ryan Dunn. He drank, he drove, 2 people died," the film critic wrote -- he amended his statement soon after his Facebook page was restored.
"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."
Was Ebert's reaction insensitive or spot-on? Tell us in comments.
Ryan Dunn of 'Jackass' dies in car accident
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Ryan Dunn found fame performing crude and daring stunts on the television show
-- Nardine Saad
Photos: Roger Ebert, left, and Ryan Dunn. Credits: Associated Press