The mother who posted a viral video of her young son, Keaton Jones, talking about being bullied is now facing accusations that she has made “racist” Facebook posts and is exploiting her son to raise money on GoFundMe.
Kimberly Jones also faced backlash from the principal of her son’s school, Greg Clay, who suggested that bullying isn’t as “rampant” at the school as she made it seem. Since Kimberly Jones uploaded a video of her son crying and saying bullies poured milk over him and put ham in his clothes on December 8, the clip has spread across the world. Celebrities have even extended offers to Keaton and his mom to go to NFL games and movie premieres. At the time of writing, Kimberly has increased the privacy of her Facebook page, meaning that the famous video is no longer viewable to the public. At one point, the video had surpassed 20 million views.
In the caption accompanying the video, Kimberly wrote, “For the record, Keaton asked to do this AFTER he had he me pick him up AGAIN because he was afraid to go to lunch. My kids are by no stretch perfect, & at home, he’s as all boy as they come, but by all accounts he’s good at school. Talk to your kids. I’ve even had friends of mine tell me they’re kids were only nice to him to get him to mess with people. We all know how it feels to want to belong, but only a select few know how it really feels not to belong anywhere.”
Kimberly Jones’ daughter has disputed the claims of racism and exploitation, but Jones herself has not commented since posting the viral video last week.
Here’s what you need to know about Kimberly Jones and the controversy surrounding her:
1. Kimberly Has Posted Multiple Photos of the Confederate Flag on Her Facebook Page
Kimberly has posted multiple images of the confederate flag on her now-private Facebook page. On August 25, Kimberly wrote on her page:
Dear butt hurt Americans,
If you aren’t bleeding, no bones are sticking out and you can breathe, STOP Crying! For the love, some folks clearly never picked a switch. And before y’all start talking to me about metaphorical, emotional, financial or historical blood and brokenness, Don’t.
Join a group. #Yallneedsomeporchtherapy #coffeewithJesus #somethin #FINE
Her daughter, Lakyn Jones, wrote in a now-deleted Twitter post, “My mother is not in anyway a racist. I can assure you of that. She is just a strong southern woman.”
In another tweet she said, “I am from the south. You’ll see a million flags like that. Doesn’t mean we are racist.”
Sports blog Black Sports Online commented on the irony that many among the first people to reach out to Keaton were black athletes from various Tennessee teams.
Some celebrities who were among those giving support to Keaton on social media have reacted by saying that the boy does not deserve any blame for his mother’s views or actions.
“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,” wrote actor Nick Stevenson. “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.”
ESPN’s Jemele Hill, who invited Keaton to visit her at ESPN, wrote Monday, “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.”
In response to someone who asked him, “Now that we know that Keaton kid and his family are a bunch of racists, are you withdrawing your support?,” comedian and actor Patton Oswalt wrote on Twitter, “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?”
Oswalt added, “I still feel compassion for him. It’s all awful. Thanks for being consistent, 2017!”
2. Principal Greg Clay of Horace Maynard Middle School Has Criticized the Video
Greg Clay, the principal of Horace Maynard Middle School, told the Knoxville News-Sentinel, “It’s not as rampant as the video would have you believe. I can’t tell you what was done, but I can tell you action was taken with the children.” Clay added that he believed the bullying described in the video was something that happened weeks previously.
Principal Clay also told the News Sentinel, “We’re having a good school year. I’m sorry it’s like this. We all sympathize with Keaton and we’re doing everything we can to make sure it never happens again. Everybody saw the video and it was horrible. We don’t want anyone to feel like that. Keaton’s a good kid. We’ll take care of him.”
While other parents told the newspaper that they didn’t feel bullying at Horace Maynard Middle School was more extreme than in other places. One parent, LeAnn Ray, said the school resource officer handled her son’s bullying complaint “pretty well” and “the kid left [her son] alone” afterwards.
3. MMA Fighter Joe Schilling Accused Kimberly of Scamming Celebrities for Money, but He Appears to Have Fallen for a Fake Account
On December 11, MMA fighter Joe Schilling posted a screengrab of an Instagram conversation he believes he had with Keaton’s mother, but it now appears that the account is not real.
During the conversation, Schilling said that Kimberly should be concentrating on her son’s pain rather than trying to fundraise. Kimberly replied, “What happened to us whites sticking together and helping one of [sic] another against the predator?” Schilling then calls Kimberly “a dumb c***,” after which she asks him to delete her last message. Schilling’s post has been shared thousands of times on social media.
On that fake Kimberly Jones Instagram, which remains active under the name, page, @Kimberlyjones_38, the user writes in the bio, “Donate to my PayPal. Mother of three beautiful kids❤❤ Love them with all my heart. Family comes first, always positive energy and thank God & keep him first.”
Jones’ daughter said on Twitter, “That is not my moms instagrram (sic). Her’s is private and she hasn’t been posting anything.”‘
“…The person he spoke to IS NOT my mother. I’d like to get in contact with him,” she said, referencing Schilling. “I will not give out my mom’s personal Instagram but that is not my mom that he talked to.”
Fox News also appears to have fallen for the fake account, posting an interview that the news organization had with @Kimberlyjones_38 through direct message. Jones’ daughter says her mother and their family have not talked to anyone.
The Instagram page linked to a Paypal account and a GoFundMe, but it is not clear how much money was donated to the page operator.
Another GoFundMe page was set up by Joseph Lam on Saturday and had raised more than $58,000.
“As many of you know I paused the donations as well as the comments. As I sit back and read these comments and watched the video again I feel I have to make this update. THIS IS NOT ABOUT THE MOM!! However passing judgement on her before you know her is a form of bullying,” Lam posted Monday in an update. “Condemnation before evaluation is the ultimate form of ignorance. I can’t even say for sure that any of whats being said is true. I don’t know the family personally and never claimed to have known them.”
Lam added, “This is about a kid who’s been bullied and not just one kid, Keaton, there are many unspoken cases about kids being bullied. We have to be the voice for the voiceless. In the video I saw a kid crying not just for himself but for others. To me thats a kid with a heart of gold and deserves praise. I’m hoping that we can turn the money into something good whether it be for private school or college fund. I’m in touch with GFM on how to proceed at this point. Thank you every one that donated.”
Lam, of New Jersey, has no apparent connection to Kimberly and Keaton Jones. He explained on GoFundMe why he started the campaign:
I came across this video on Facebook of Kim Jones and her son Keaton. Keaton is being bullied at school. This video really touched my heart. I decided to do this GoFund Me to help with this child’s future. I know that money may not be the answer for this problem that we are facing in our communities with bullying. One of my biggest fears as a parent is that my children will be bullied in school. I know its a big task to tackle but it starts inside of our walls and the values that we teach our children. This is just one case of thousands out there. How many of our children stay in silence out of fear for their safety or for the fear of being further unaccepted. Over 3.2 million kids are bullied annually. 160,000 kids on a daily basis skip school out of fear from being bullied. They just want to be accepted and to be able to learn in a safe environment. Im so glad Kim posted this video of her son. It shows how bullying can really impact a child. The video that she posted really touched my heart and felt compelled to help. This is best way that I knew how.
Lakyn Jones also responded to accusations that her mother was exploiting Keaton to make money.
“My mom is only on Facebook and hasn’t told anyone to donate,” she said. Of the GoFundMe, which has been suspended, she added, “The gofundme is a real one but we don’t have the money and haven’t heard the man since.”
4. Kimberly’s Daughter Lakyn Jones-Bell, Says ‘My Family Will Continue to Support Each Other. You All Can Hate … But Our Faith Can’t Be Shaken’
Kimberly’s eldest daughter, Lakyn, has begun fielding many of the messages of support, along with the negative responses and accusations, her family has received via Twitter. In a tweet pinned at the top of her page, Lakyn wrote, “Apologizes again to those tweets I can’t get to. My mentions are flooded and I’m trying my best. We thank everyone for the love and support.” Lakyn also took time to respond to those sending abuse to her family, “My family will continue to support each other. You all can hate and tweet all you want but our faith cant be shaken.”
Here are just some of the celebrities who have reached out to Keaton via his sister:
In reference to the photos of her mother with a confederate flag, Lakyn retweeted a message reading, “I’ve never owned a confederate flag, but the few people that I have known who did, were not racist or hateful to anyone. Some may use it to portray hate,but to most of those in the south who fly the flag, it’s just part of their culture that represents their pride to be southern.”
She also disputed rumors that her brother, Keaton, had made racist statements to other students prior to being bullied, including using racial slurs. “Keaton never said those things. He’s not a racist and we don’t condone that behavior,” she wrote on Twitter.
“Those who know me and my family know we aren’t racist. My brother doesn’t say the “N” word. Please leave it alone,” she wrote.
5. Chris Evans Made Arguably the Best Offer to Young Keaton
The Avengers star Chris Evans made arguably the best offer to young Keaton. Evans wrote on Twitter, “Stay strong, Keaton. Don’t let them make you turn cold. I promise it gets better. While those punks at your school are deciding what kind of people they want to be in this world, how would you and your mom like to come to the Avengers premiere in LA next year?”
Another celebrity who reached out to Keaton to make him a very special offer was UFC head honcho Dana White. White said in a Twitter posting that he was extending an invite to Keaton to come to Las Vegas. White wrote, “Meet Keaton Jones a very smart little boy who is being bullied at school. This video is heartbreaking!! I want to bring Keaton to Vegas and hang out at UFC Headquarters. If anyone knows how i can reach the family please let me know. Thank u everyone.”