“Arrested Development” star and comedian David Cross received backlash Saturday afternoon for a tweet he made advertising his show at the University of Utah’s Kingsbury Hall.
“Hey #SaltLakeCity! See you on Wednesday night at @kingsburyhall @UUtah? Tickets still available at bit.ly/Cross-SaltLake…” the tweet read.
— )))David Cross((( (@davidcrosss) August 18, 2018
The image attached caused some Twitter users to demand the U cancel the show.
In the first season of the television series “Arrested Development,” Cross’ character Tobias Fünke suffers a “rare psychological affliction of never being able to be completely naked.”
In the seventh episode, there is a scene of the character wearing cut off jean shorts underneath a pair of red men’s underwear, asking the employee in the dressing room if they effectively hid his “thunder.”
The ad pictures that same scene with Cross sporting a pair of garments worn by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have been endowed, or made certain religious promises, in the faith’s temple. Serving as a reminder of their commitment, the underwear is often referred to as sacred.
The image is overlaid with the words, “UTAH! Learn the real truth!” along with the date, time and location of the performance.
“Big fan of you and [“Arrested Development”]. This is unacceptable. It’s not funny. It’s not cool. We (LDS people) hold garments very sacred. You wouldn’t make fun of a woman in a burqa or hijab right? Same thing here,” tweeted Kelsi Moore, followed by a plea for Cross to apologize.
Big fan of you and AD. This is unacceptable. It’s not funny. It’s not cool. We (LDS people) hold garments very sacred. You wouldn’t make fun of a woman in a burqa or hijab right? Same thing here.
— Kelsi Moore (@KelsiMoore9) August 19, 2018
Others saw the tweet as a comedian merely looking for attention.
“I don’t like the image, but it’s hardly the only photo of Mormon garments on the internet,” said Twitter user Greg Welch in an email. “Some national comedians have said people getting offended over every little thing is killing comedy. It would seem Mr. Cross disagrees since he has paired an intentionally offensive image with the crass invitation ‘tickets still available.’ If he gets a story written and posted about it, I would guess his marketing team will call it a success.”
The U’s official Twitter responded to Cross’ tweet with a GIF of his character on “Arrested Development” saying, “Huzzah!”
“It was an error of ignorance and in no way meant to offend,” said U spokesperson Chris Nelson.
The U has since deleted the response, tweeting, “We apologize for not immediately seeing a connection to the LDS faith in this tweet. It took a minute to understand the reaction to our GIF, but gratefully our community pointed it out. Our reply was in reaction to David Cross performing on campus & not intended to offend.”
We apologize for not immediately seeing a connection to the LDS faith in this tweet. It took a minute to understand the reaction to our GIF, but gratefully our community pointed it out.
Our reply was in reaction to David Cross performing on campus & not intended to offend.
— University of Utah (@UUtah) August 18, 2018
The performance will not be canceled, and as a rental event organized by an outside promoter, has no affiliation with UtahPresents or the U. Cross will perform in Kingsbury Hall on Wednesday night.
“The University of Utah is committed to fostering a campus climate that welcomes and respects all people,” Nelson said. “This use of sacred religious imagery is disrespectful and in direct opposition to the university’s values. The university does not endorse David Cross nor does it censor content of those coming to campus.”
U President Ruth Watkins released a statement Sunday condemning the tweet, but reaffirming that the First Amendment is a priority for the university.
“The use of the imagery was deeply offensive,” Watkins said. “At the same time, the First Amendment protects such speech and the university cannot and will not censor content of those coming to campus. We acknowledge the free speech rights of individuals and entities who rent university facilities — even those with whom we disagree. By doing so we protect the free speech rights of all.”