Army officials fired a social media manager on Saturday for an Instagram post related to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak that critics — including at least one member on Congress — blasted as offensive and racist.
The post, part of a series of questions and answers on the virus, was up on the Army’s official social media account for several hours before being deleted. Under the posted question “why did a man eat a bat,” Army officials wrote “it wasn’t because he was thirsty” with a picture of a man shrugging.
The comment appears to reference rumors that the coronavirus originated from someone eating a bat in China, an assertion that scientists have not confirmed. But the idea has provided fodder for culturally insensitive jokes and ethic blaming for the fast-moving illness, which has already killed nearly 13,000 people worldwide (more than 200 in the United States).
Even after the Army post was deleted, it continued to draw condemnation from veterans groups and military advocates on social media for its insensitivity.
“This is simply unacceptable,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill. and an Iraq War veteran, wrote on Twitter in response to the post. “We do not know how COVID19 first infected humans but racism has no place in our Armed Forces.”
Army spokeswoman Col. Kathy Turner apologized for the post shortly after Duckworth’s tweet.