Tennessee bullying victim Keaton Jones’ inspirational story seemed to unravel after the boy’s mother was accused of being “racist.” Following the drama, the family attempted to clear the air on Tuesday.
The Horace Maynard Middle School student appeared on CBS This Morning to open up about the harshness he has endured at the hands of fellow kids, while his mother addressed the brutal accusations being made against her.
The 11-year-old said he endured daily abuse from five fellow students, but never complained prior to making the video because he was “afraid [the bullies] would for sure attack,” he said.
In the viral video, which was viewed more than 20 million times before his mother changed her Facebook privacy settings, Jones said kids at lunch poured milk on him, put ham down his clothes and threw bread at him. They also called him “ugly” and picked on the way his nose looks.
When the video reached high-profile celebrities and professional athletes, the boy was invited to numerous events, including a Tennessee Titans game and upcoming Avengers premiere, to praise his bravery and strength.
“[It] made me feel like I had accomplished something real, something that could actually change the world,” Jones said of the video’s impact.
But the feel-good story was rocked with controversy after people recovered a photo of his mother, Kimberly Jones, holding a Confederate flag, which many considered to be a racist symbol.
She, on the other hand, said the pictures were meant as a joke for those who know her well.
“The only two photos on the entire planet where I am anywhere near a Confederate flag,” she said on the morning broadcast. “It was ironic. It was fun. I’ve said I spent most of my life being bullied and judged because I wasn’t racist.”
Kimberly said she knew posting the video of her son’s vulnerable moment could open them up to criticism, but she shared the emotional moment anyway.
“I knew that it could be great, and I knew that it could be awful. And it has been,” she said.