Should Miss Teen USA Karlie Hay delete her offensive tweets?


I have been researching this story ever since it broke late Saturday and Sunday morning and this is disturbing on a personal level yet fascinating on a professional level.

I have a few questions about the tweets that many have shared online showing the newly crowned Miss Teen USA Karlie Hay using the “n” word.

  1. The account that shows the tweets (@haaykarrls) using the “n” word is a protected account; bring me to a few sub questions:
    – Who shared the screen grabs showing these tweets from a protected account?
    – Was the account public when she won Miss Teen USA, allowing people to research her profile, and screen grabbing these tweets?
  2. But here is my bigger question/discussion based on several notable celebrities debating this situation online. Former Miss Teen USA Kamie Crawford posted this assessment: I can take the #missteenusa top 5 being an all white, all blond top 5. What I can’t take is – why didn’t the winner clean up her page?”

Interesting assessment to dive into. First, to address her question, why didn’t someone “clean-up” the account including tweets inside a protected account. But, would it have made everyone feel better if she did delete those tweets before she won? Let’s take my second question one step further, would we as digital and social media consultants/agencies recommend to Karlie to delete those Tweets, if we hold true to what it means to be a transparent community manager?

We often preach to brands and those who represent the brand online:

  1. Know what is appropriate in the online world to post (and not to post) and ask yourself if each status update, tweet, image, represents the moral fabric of the represented brand.
  2. If there is any feedback (positive, negative, neutral, hate speech), never delete the original post and respond to all comments using an appropriate methodology.

It looks like Karlie did respond with a series of these tweets on Sunday, July 31st after the online uproar:

Several years ago, I had many personal struggles and found myself in a place that is not representative of who I am as a person…

I admit that I have used language publicly in the past which I am not proud of and that there is no excuse for. Through hard work…

Through hard work, education and thanks in large part to the sisterhood that I have come to know through pageants, I am proud to say that…

I am today a better person. I am honored to hold this title and I will use this platform to promote the values of…

The Miss Universe Organization, and my own, that recognize the confidence, beauty and perseverance of all women.

Is that enough? I am not sure? With my crisis communications hat on, I am starting to create a communication strategy. This is not the first time or the last time someone will do something similar, and I need a gut check for how I would respond. Honestly, I would consider a few options:

  1. Making her protected Twitter account public for all to view. Have a communication strategy to address the good, bad and ugly.
  2. Schedule a Facebook Live session where Karlie Hay and Kamie Crawford talk through the situation in an open forum moderated by an entertainment reporter; with the understanding this is meant to discuss the situation. I would want to show Karlie can openly address the mistake, answer former Miss Teen USA questions, and talk how they can move this forward.

If the goal is to be transparent, then let’s be transparent. But those digital and social media agencies/consultants who are sitting back drilling Karlee online for her honesty (using the “n” word), they better have a gut check when they speak of transparency and appropriate community management for their very public brands.