BOSTON (CBS) – Two women have been placed on unpaid leave from their jobs after their photo at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia angered thousands of people on Facebook.
UPDATE: Women fired after photo outrage
Lindsey Stone was visiting the Tomb of the Unknowns last month on a business trip when she posed for a picture next to a sign that reads “silence and respect.”
In the photo, Stone is pretending to yell and she’s showing her middle finger.
The photo, taken by co-worker Jamie Schuh, went viral and sparked anger among veterans.
“I can understand why veterans would be all upset over this,” says Edward LeBlanc who was in the Air Force for 20 years and served two tours in Vietnam. “It’s disrespectful, she’s telling us to go “F” ourselves and I don’t think that’s real bright and good for anybody.”
Some angry comments were posted on the Facebook page of their employer, Living Independently Forever, Inc.,(LIFE) a non-profit organization in Hyannis that helps adults with disabilities on Cape Cod.
The uproar forced the organization to post this statement Tuesday afternoon:
“On Nov. 19 at approximately 6 p.m., we became aware that one of our employees had posted an offensive, inappropriate photograph on her personal Facebook page. The photo was taken at a national historic site in October by a fellow employee during a trip to Washington, D.C. attended by 40 residents and eight staff. The photo has since been removed from Facebook, and both employees have been placed on unpaid leave pending the results of an internal investigation.
This photograph in no way reflects the opinions or values of the LIFE organization, which holds our nation’s veterans in the highest regard. We are proud to have veterans serving on our staff and board of trustees, and we value their service. The men and women who have selflessly fought and sacrificed their lives to protect the rights and lives of Americans deserve our utmost respect and gratitude. We are acutely aware that this photo has done a disservice to veterans and we are deeply saddened that it was taken and shared in a public medium.”
Stone and Schuh would not comment on camera, but released a statement late Tuesday night:
“We sincerely apologize for all the pain we have caused by posting the picture we took in Washington DC on Facebook. While posted on a public forum, the picture was intended only for our own amusement. We never meant any disrespect to any of the people nationwide who have served this country and defended our freedom so valiantly. It was meant merely as a visual pun, intending to depict the exact opposite of what the sign said, and had absolutely nothing to do with the location it was taken or the people represented there. We never meant to cause any harm or disrespect to anyone, particularly our men and women in uniform. We realize it was in incredibly poor taste, and are deeply sorry for the offense we have caused.
We would also like to apologize to LIFE, Inc. It is an amazing organization that provides invaluable services to adults with learning and developmental disabilities. We are beyond remorseful that our actions have caused them such undue public scrutiny. The disrespect implied by our picture has nothing at all to do with LIFE’s mission statement or values. We regret having caused any suffering to the staff members, residents, families and friends.
Again, we very sincerely apologize to everyone who took offense to the photo. We realize that it was an ignorant and distasteful thing for us to do, but we truly meant no harm. We are deeply sorry. – Lindsey Stone and Jamie Schuh”
Lindsey’s father Peter spoke with WBZ-TV about the incident.
“She had no intention of upsetting or offending anyone,” says Peter Stone. “It was poor judgment and she regrets every part of it.”
Peter says Lindsey loved her job, but there are consequences for every action.
“That was a private page,” he says. “She was goofing around and it got taken off the page.”
“She is very, very sorry for what she did,” says her mother Jeanne, “and she never meant it to be disrespectful to anybody.”
Sarah Wunsch, a Staff Attorney with the ACLU of Massachusetts does not think the women should not lose their jobs over the photo.
“Other people have the right to say, ‘I think she’s a jerk or she’s disrespectful.’ I suppose they have the right to call for her to be fired,” says Wunsch. “But it doesn’t mean the employer should give into that.”
“Offensiveness shouldn’t be the standard for what gets to be able to be said, because what’s offensive to you may not be offensive to me and vice versa,” says Wunsch.
Lindsey’s father says he understands why people are offended.
“I don’t think she was reacting to the site (Arlington Cemetery), she was reacting to the sign,” he says. “I’m appalled myself.”