The thorny issue of the death of Jackass star Ryan Dunn has been playing out on the Internet ever since the news broke yesterday, and its two sides can pretty much be summarized in the ugly back-and-forth between Dunn’s lifelong friend Bam Margera and Margera's unlikely opponent, film critic Roger Ebert. Shortly after learning of Dunn’s death, Ebert took to his Twitter account to write, “Friends don’t let jackasses drink and drive”—a statement that encapsulates a lot of the feelings that sprung up in the wake of the news, after a photo was released from Dunn’s Twitter account that showed him drinking with the now-identified passenger, Jackass production assistant Zachary Hartwell, only hours before the crash. After all, even though drinking has yet to be named officially as a contributor to the accident that killed both of them, it probably didn’t help, and many who have had their own tragic experiences with drunk drivers undoubtedly felt the same as Ebert did about Dunn’s choice to get behind the wheel that night.
Unfortunately, Ebert’s words were also ill-timed, coming so soon after the announcement and in front of such a large audience—one that got even bigger as soon as Perez Hilton picked up on it and turned it into a story about how Ebert was behaving “insensitively.” Ebert soon responded, pointing out that most of Hilton’s commenters agreed with him, which only made Dunn’s mourners angrier. Their feelings were epitomized in a response from Margera himself, who fired back over the course of two tweets, saying, “I just lost my best friend, I have been crying hysterical for a full day and piece of shit roger ebert has the gall to put in his 2 cents … About a jackass drunk driving and his [sic] is one, fuck you! Millions of people are crying right now, shut your fat fucking mouth!”
Following Margera’s outcry, Ebert apparently became the target of numerous Jackass fans—even losing his Facebook page after, he believes, it was flagged repeatedly by Margera’s supporters. (It has since been restored.) Just a little while ago, he posted a blog addressing the whole controversy, saying that he regrets that his tweet was considered cruel, explaining that he wasn’t trying to call Dunn a jackass—merely alluding to his association with Jackass—and saying that he believes he was “probably too quick to tweet. That was unseemly.” However, Ebert also reiterates that he stands by his original sentiments: “I do know that nobody has any business driving on a public highway at 110 mph, as some estimated—or fast enough, anyway, to leave a highway and fly through 40 yards of trees before crashing. That is especially true if the driver has had three shots and three beers. Two people were killed. What if the car had crashed into another car?… Friends don't let friends drink and drive.”