Celebrities love publicity, but not all publicity is good. Especially on Twitter. The famous are learning that just because you say something on Twitter in 140 characters doesn't make it less offensive. Sometimes that lesson comes at a high cost.
Last weekend, Patricia Heaton deleted her account after posting several tweets insulting Sandra Fluke, who testified before Democratic members of the House of Representatives on why she believed in free contraception. The Everybody Loves Raymond actress first took heat after sending the Georgetown law student messages like, "If every Tweaton sent Georgetown Gal one condom, her parents wouldn't have to cancel basic cable, & she would never reproduce -- sound good?" A few days later Heaton returned to the website with an apology for Fluke.
Alec Baldwin's fight with American Airlines didn't start on Twitter, but he used the social media site to let everyone know how angry he felt about being kicked off one of their flights for playing Words with Friends. He too briefly abandoned Twitter and later apologized.
Tweets have been expensive for some. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined $25,000 by the NBA for his tweet complaining about refereeing during one of his games. Rocker Courtney Love got sued over profanity-laden tweets regarding a conflict with clothing designer Dawn Simorangkir. That lawsuit was settled out of court but cost Love $430,000.
Celebrities have even lost their jobs because of tweets that they apparently thought were a good idea at the time. Gilbert Gottfried was dropped by Aflac as the voice of their mascot after he tweeted tasteless jokes about the Japanese tsunami. Former Congressman Anthony Weiner eventually lost his position over a sexual yFrog tweet he sent to a woman half his age in Washington. Roland Martin wasn't fired from CNN, but the commentator was put on suspension after a tweet he sent during the Super Bowl suggesting that anyone who saw a guy get excited about a David Beckham underwear commercial should smack the s**t out of him. Roland apologized, saying the comment was anti-soccer, not anti-gay.
And what a difference a few years make in the case of Ashton Kutcher. He was the first member of Twitter to reach 1 million followers, but now his account is controlled by someone else. That's because Kutcher tweeted his disgust with the firing of Penn State Coach Joe Paterno, before he fully understood that Paterno had not reported the sexual abuse that occurred at the school. Kutcher deleted the tweet and handed control of his famous Twitter account over to a management company.
Twitter's biggest asset is its offering of instant information. In the case of something as big as a political uprising or as small as a traffic shutdown, Twitter exposes you to things that are happening right now. However, that instant information can also include emotions that often subside.
For celebrities known for avoiding cameras and interviews, they seemingly forget that the same audience is watching them on Twitter. And that peek behind the curtain of a celebrity's not-so-nice side often gets them in trouble. Maybe they are so used to being in front of a camera or microphone and don't think they are as exposed when staring at their smartphone or laptop. But celebrities should pay attention to the number of people following them on Twitter, since the Twitterverse is certainly paying attention to them.