Kimberly Jones told CBS News that her posts of the Confederate flag on social media were intended to be ‘ironic’ and ‘funny,’ not racist.
Keaton, a sixth-grader at Horace Maynard Middle School in Maynardville in Union County, sparked a national conversation about bullying after a video of him went viral over the weekend.
Angela Gosnell/News Sentinel
The mother of a Union County boy caught in backlash over social media posts featuring the Confederate flag after her son’s bullying video went viral said the posts were meant to be “ironic” and “funny” and not racist.
“(Those were) the only two photos on my entire planet where I am anywhere near a Confederate flag,” Kimberly Jones told CBS News in a segment that aired Tuesday morning, saying the photos had nothing to do with racist intent.
“I’ve spent most of my life being bullied and judged because I wasn’t racist.”
More: Fake fundraisers, racism allegations against mother follow Tennessee boy’s anti-bullying video
Jones declined to comment to the USA TODAY Network – Tennessee when approached by a reporter at the University of Tennessee on Tuesday following a visit with members of the football team and tour of Neyland Stadium.
More: Keaton Jones visits with UT Vols football team, Fulmer after viral bullying video, backlash
Her comments to CBS come a few days after Jones posted a now viral video of her 11-year-old son, Keaton Jones, talking about how he was bullied at school and afraid to go to lunch.
Horace Maynard Middle School, on Monday, Dec. 11, 2017. Principal Greg Clay said the bullying issue with Keaton Jones was resolved last week and action was taken with the other children involved. (Photo: Michael Patrick/News Sentinel)
The video sparked outreach from around the globe, including dozens of celebrities and professional athletes, some of whom offered to fly Keaton and his mother across the country to attend movie premieres, sporting events and exclusive tours.
But it also sparked backlash over unrelated social media posts by Kimberly Jones and her daughter, Lakyn Jones, featuring photos of Confederate flags; and a wave of fake social media accounts from people trying to cash in on Keaton’s fame.
More: Crying East Tennessee boy’s viral anti-bullying video attracts attention of Vols, Titans
The images sparking the backlash included a photo of Kimberly Jones holding up the Confederate flag and a family photo including Keaton where the Confederate flag was pictured hanging alongside the American flag.
Lakyn Jones, on Twitter, said the posts were not intended to be racist. She also responded to allegations on social media that her brother used the “N word,” saying he does not and “we don’t condone that behavior.”
She has not responded to requests for an interview from the USA TODAY Network – Tennessee.
Keaton never said those things. He’s not a racist and we don’t condone that behavior
I reached out to Keaton’s sister and this was the response… before people start assuming remember there are people in this world that pose as others and use viral events for money. Just keep an open mind. pic.twitter.com/HdV36r38mc
Still, the images prompted some celebrities to rethink their support of Keaton Jones. R&B singer Chris Brown, for example, shared the family picture of Keaton that included the Confederate flag on his Instagram.
“I HOPE THE PEOPLE DEALING WITH BULLYING TOOK THE KIND WORDS AND POSITIVITY AS A STEPPING STONE,” Brown wrote. “THEN PEOPLE WONDER WHY THERE IS NO TRUST. I WAS GONE SAY SOME FUNNY HATEFUL (expletive) BUT LIKE I SAID…. LOVE WORKS BOTH WAYS ! STAY HUMBLE, BE CLASSY.”
Rapper T.I., who earlier in the week had posted on Instagram that Keaton Jones should, “Hit me if u need me Lil bro,” later said the public had been misled and should not be donating money to him. He said that he still supports Keaton, though.
“While his family is spewing hatred around him… he himself will be able to speak from experience how much LOVE was shown to him on the gram by the very ones he’s been taught to DISPISE (sic) !!! That’s how we unlearn racism,” the rapper wrote.
Lakyn Jones tweeted that the family hasn’t started any GoFundMe accounts to raise money.
Over the weekend, a man named Joseph Lam started a GoFundMe campaign titled “Stand up for Keaton.” A spokesman for GoFundMe described Lam as a “stranger” who “wanted to help Keaton after the video was posted online.”
The campaign raised more than $57,000 — its goal was $20,000 — before Lam “turned off donations,” the spokesman, Bobby Whithorne, said in an email Monday.
GoFundMe is working with Lam “to ensure the funds go to Keaton,” Whithorne said.
Kimberly Jones made her Facebook page private amidst the attention the bullying video began getting and the backlash.
More: Union County school district, parents respond to viral Keaton Jones bullying video
Her son told CBS that it was his idea to make the video, and his mother said she wasn’t sure what to think prior to posting it.
“I knew it could be great and I knew it could be awful, and it has been,” she said.
Meet Keaton Jones a very smart little boy who is being bullied at school. This video is heartbreaking!! I want to bring Keaton to Vegas and hang out at UFC Headquarters. If anyone knows how i can reach the family please let me know. Thank u everyone pic.twitter.com/BR8c4ldDFc
In the video, Keaton, crying in the passenger seat, describes having milk poured on him and ham put down his clothes, and having kids at school make fun of him and call him ugly.
“Just out of curiosity, why do they bully?” he says. “What’s the point of it? Why do you find joy in taking innocent people and finding a way to be mean to ’em? It’s not OK.”