Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian

When it comes to social media, suggesting children should be locked in cages with pedophiles will get yourself in hot water. Apparently, no one told Peter Fonda. The actor was put on blast recently after a recent late-night Twitter rant where he suggested that Barron Trump, who is 12 years old, should be “ripped from his mother’s arms and put in a cage with pedophiles.”

Now, you would think that, on the surface, people would know not to post things like this if they wanted to avoid enraging millions of people and subsequently doing serious damage to their brand. And yet, week after week, someone seems to forget this. However, even by the fairly wide standards of behavior on Twitter, this tweet stood out.

Peter Fonda tweet

In addition to an expletive hurled at Donald Trump, Fonda rolled into a rant that culminated — or, really, crashed and burned — with the comments about Barron Trump. The tweet drew harsh responses, not only from Barron’s parents, but also from massive numbers across the political spectrum.

Fonda, a two-time Oscar nominee, quickly realized he’d gone too far and deleted his tweet. But it was too late, and Fonda found himself in a position familiar to far too many celebrities, having to apologize for a Twitter rant that could hurt his career:

“I tweeted something highly inappropriate and vulgar about the president and his family in response to the devastating images I was seeing on television … Like many Americans, I am very impassioned and distraught over the situation with children separated from their families at the border, but I went way too far. It was wrong and I should not have done it. I immediately regretted it and sincerely apologize to the family for what I said and any hurt my words have caused.”

Folks might be willing to forgive and forget, but that wasn’t the only time Fonda sounded off about border security on Twitter. He also suggested protesters should surround the homes of federal agents, and “find out where their children go to school and surround the schools in protest …” This too garnered blowback, but nothing on the level of the tweet regarding Barron Trump.

One thing Fonda’s tweetstorm has in common with many other social media rants that have landed celebrities or brands in trouble, is that it was made late at night. The timing implies many things, which we will not infer, but it certainly confirms that Mr. Fonda was not at his best. So, with that in mind, here’s a pretty simple PR tip: If you’re not totally awake and totally sober and of sound mind, put the phone down. It doesn’t matter how clever you think you’re being in the moment or how angry you are about something … remember, the Internet is forever.


Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading independent PR Agency. He is also author of best selling PR book “For Immediate Release.”