Jen Spyra, a writer for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, took some heat on Twitter this week after making a joke about former First Lady Barbara Bush.
Spyra commented on Bush's passing on Tuesday evening, shortly after it had been announced.
"RIP Barbara Bush," she wrote, "the only woman who was 92 for 30 years."
RIP Barbara Bush, the only woman who was 92 for 30 years.— Jen Spyra (@jenspyra) April 18, 2018
The joke struck some followers as harmless, as the tweet accumulated nearly 1,700 likes. However, the replies filled with vitriol from those who perceived it as a sleight against the late first lady.
"That's awfully insensitive," wrote one user. "I'm going to assume your [sic] not a progressive..."
That's awfully insensitive. I'm going to assume your not a progressive...— Adeptus Mechanicus (@BrainMechanical) April 18, 2018
"Making fun of someone who died today," noted another. "Classy."
Making fun of someone who died today. Classy.— Tyler (@examiner1277) April 18, 2018
"Wow, mean spirited at the very least," read another reply. "24 hours after the death of a former First Lady, and Mother of a POTUS...sorrow for the family might have sufficed. What did she ever do to you?"
Wow, mean spirited at the very least. 24 hours after the death of a former First Lady, and Mother of a POTUS...sorrow for the family might have sufficed. What did she ever do to you? #RIPMrsBush🇺🇸— TJW🇺🇸 (@LuckyTJ00) April 19, 2018
Many took the joke as a reference to Bush's signature white hair. Her hair began to turn gray at an early age, when her 3-year-old daughter, Pauline, began treatment for leukemia. After Pauline died in 1953, the then 28-year-old Barbara Bush decided not to dye it. Her hair went from gray to white at an early age, and Barbara Bush staunchly refused to dye it for appearances.
"Seriously," wrote a respondent to Spyra's tweet. "The lady went grey after her 3 year old daughter died from cancer and apparently that's hilarious, especially on the day she died? This is mortifying."
Spyra never responded to the controversy she had stirred up, and while a few commenters considered a boycott of Late Show sponsors, nothing seems to have come of the controversial tweet.
Bush was 92 years old when she passed away on Tuesday. She was suffering from COPD and other related ailments, and just a few days prior she announced that she would stop treatment options and focus on comfort instead.1comments
Her funeral was attended by four former presidents as well as current First Lady Melania Trump. President Donald Trump himself, however, chose to stay behind at his Mar-a-Lago golf resort, saying that he wanted to "avoid disruptions."
Bush was the only woman in American history to see both her husband and her son sworn in as President of the United States. Abigail Adams came close — she was the wife of John Adams, the second president; and the mother of John Quincy Adams, the sixth president. However, she passed away before her son was elected.