Comedian Stephen Spinola is facing a focused campaign of online harassment after he was targeted by the white supremacist alt-right movement for an insensitive tweet he wrote about Barron Trump. Following the news that Saturday Night Live writer Katie Rich was suspended for tweeting an insensitive joke about the president's 10-year-old son, alt-right blogs have begun singling out any media figure who took aim at Barron, and attempting to destroy them through online intimidation.
In a tweet that has since been deleted, Spinola said that Barron "looks like a very handsome date-rapist-to-be." After a few angry trolls suggested that Barron should rape Spinola's mother, he added another tweet saying, "I don’t want my Mom to get raped, but if she does I hope it’s by Barron Trump – small pp would be painless & we’d win lots of money in court." Initially, the tweets received little attention (except for some enraged responses from Trump supporters). Spinola told Someecards,
The weekend went by and nobody really said much. I told my girlfriend that I thought the original tweet was wrong but I say a lot of wrong things and out of principle I'm leaving it up - Comedians should be able to make observational jokes. I made the observation that this boy looked a certain way, which was really no wish that he would become a bad person or that anything bad would happen to him or his family.
Spinola's reservations were vindicated when his tweets became the subject of an InfoWars article by conspiracy blogger Paul Joseph Watson. InfoWars is a well-known fake news website owned by radio host Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist who believes, among other things, that the Sandy Hook massacre was a conspiracy perpetrated by the anti-gun lobby.
In the article, Watson incorrectly identified Spinola as a writer for Comedy Central. At the time, Spinola's Twitter bio described him as a "Comedy Central content contributor," because the channel had featured his tweets on its website and on the show @Midnight. But Watson and his followers didn't bother to do their research and figure that out. Instead, they launched an online petition to get Spinola fired from Comedy Central. Soon, it had received more than 100,000 signatures.
Meanwhile, Spinola had begun receiving a deluge of hate-filled messages on social media. On Monday, he woke up to over 800 Twitter notifications. As Watson's article went viral among the alt-right, they began targeting not only Spinola, but his family. He told Someecards,
People were sending me death threats. Saying that if they find me they'll punch my teeth out. That I need to look over my shoulders every time I'm in a comedy club. Somebody with my area code found my phone number and harassed me. The CEO of some supplement company sent me an email saying to never step foot in Orlando, FL again. One guy sent me my old address and my grandmother's name with the insinuation that he was going to hurt her... she died in 2012.
Fearing for her safety, Spinola has been forced to delete every reference to his girlfriend from his internet presence. He has also been sharing the messages of hate he's been getting on Twitter. Some are profoundly threatening.
Spinola apologized for his tweets about Barron Trump, but that didn't stop the harassment. In response, he doubled down on attacking the ones who attacked him.
Now, Spinola is concerned for his future in comedy. Comedy Central has implied in its statements that he fraudulently represented himself as an employee, even though that was entirely InfoWars' mistake. And the most ironic part is that he's normally very far from a political comedian, as his other tweets prove.
You know the political climate in America is in trouble when it's preventing us from enjoying a good poop joke.