Scott Kelly, the well-known astronaut, has apologized on Twitter for quoting Winston Churchill.
“Did not mean to offend by quoting Churchill,” Kelly wrote on his Twitter page on October 7, 2018. “My apologies. I will go and educate myself further on his atrocities, racist views which I do not support. My point was we need to come together as one nation. We are all Americans. That should transcend partisan politics.”
Eight hours before, Kelly had tweeted the following: “One of the greatest leaders of modern times, Sir Winston Churchill said, ‘in victory, magnanimity.’ I guess those days are over.” He didn’t make it clear why he used the quote.
Here are those tweets:
Who is Scott Kelly? According to his bio, “Scott Kelly is a former military fighter pilot and test pilot, an engineer, a retired astronaut, and a retired U.S. Navy captain. A veteran of four space flights, Kelly commanded the International Space Station (ISS) on three expeditions and was a member of the yearlong mission to the ISS. In October 2015, he set the record for the total accumulated number of days spent in space, the single longest space mission by an American astronaut. He lives in Houston, Texas.”
The Churchill quote derives from a fuller quote from the former prime minister that reads, “In War: Resolution. In Defeat: Defiance. In Victory. Magnanimity. In Peace. Goodwill.” According to Forbes, Churchill tried to show goodwill to vanquished opponents; for example, he delivered the eulogy at the funeral of Neville Chamberlain, whom he succeeded as prime minister.
Why did Kelly apologize?
Here’s what you need to know:
The Thread Under Scott Kelly’s Original Tweet Filled Up With Anti-Churchill Comments
Some people filled Kelly’s comment thread – under his original Churchill tweet – with negative commentary about the British prime minister, with some bringing new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh into it. Here are some examples:
“Sir with all due respect, Winston Churchill is just as good as Hitler.”
“With due respect Astronaut Kelly, Winston Churchill is NOT the greatest leaders of the Modern times especially when he was responsible for the Bengal Famine of 1943. Not many in the West perhaps know this. I would probably say he was one of the greatest Orators of modern times.”
“A mass murderer can never be a great leader.”
“He never had a great reputation here in Ireland, neither too in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh etc.”
“Considering what kind of man Kavanaugh showed himself to be when put to the test, they should take their ‘victory’ and hope everyone forgets about what they saw and heard.”
“Churchill was a mass murderer and a racist, Scott.”
“After the disgustingly dishonest charade we were just subjected to, I ain’t thinking magnanimously. To subject anyone to unsubstantiated slurs was bad enough, but this was an attack on civility & the nation. The process has been forever tainted.”
People Filled the Thread Under Kelly’s Apology With Angry Comments Too
After Kelly apologized, other people said he should not have done so. Here are some examples of the comments on that thread:
“Please don’t apologize. Winston Churchill, like all of us, had serious human failings. But unlike most of us—he possessed genuine greatness. And that greatness may have saved freedom & democracy. Ask the Twitter scolds to name a hero or heroine who didn’t have serious flaws.”
“I just don’t understand the purity demands from grown adults – demanding that historical figures be perfect, which is to say, not quite human. To be human is to be flawed, and also, historical figures are people of their time — holding some views we find ugly and backward now.”
“Scott Kelly, please read a good biography of Churchill before making pronouncements on his ‘atrocities’ and ‘racist views’. He committed no atrocities and his views on race 100-years ago cannot be judged by today’s standards–generational chauvinism. Are you lost . . .in space?”
“What a disappointing climb-down. Winston Churchill stood up to Adolf Hitler and his courageous leadership saved the whole world from Nazi conquest. When he did so, in 1940 (a year before the US entered the war), only Churchill’s Britain stood in the way of the Axis winning WW2.”
Some had nuanced views of the matter.
“I’m massively conflicted about Churchill. A reactionary, racist, imperialist that thought people like me should be made to work until we drop and be happy for it. But much of the world owes him a huge debt. He was what was necessary at the time and was a genius when well managed.”