You can say a lot of things on the Internet. But as one journalist just learned, unless you want to be slammed as an idiot and prompt a boycott against the magazine for which you're writing, you probably shouldn't tell the world that you find fat people disgusting.
In a piece posted on Marie Claire's website Monday, Maura Kelly took the new CBS sitcom "Mike & Molly" to task for "implicitly promoting obesity." The show focuses on a couple who meet at an Overeaters Anonymous group.
"Yes, I think I'd be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other ... because I'd be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything," Kelly wrote in a post titled "Should 'Fatties' Get a Room? (Even on TV?)." "To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I'd find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair."
"Now, don't go getting the wrong impression: I have a few friends who could be called plump," she went on. "I'm not some size-ist jerk. And I also know how tough it can be for truly heavy people to psych themselves up for the long process of slimming down. (For instance, the overweight maintenance guy at my gym has talked to me a little bit about how it seems worthless for him to even try working out, because he's been heavy for as long as he can remember.)"
Kelly goes on to dispense a handful of "nutrition and fitness suggestions" before asking, "Do you think I'm being an insensitive jerk?"
"Yes, yes, yes" was the resounding answer from the Internet. More than 900 people have commented on the article on MarieClaire.com, most condemning Kelly and the magazine.
"You are indeed an INSENSITIVE JERK!," wrote LIKUMKEE24 on Tuesday.
"I can't believe this 'article' is still live on this site. Color me shocked... and disappointed," wrote AmberLamps this morning.
The blog Hairpin.com headlined its post on Kelly's article, "Woman Crams Remarkable Amount of Idiocy Into Single Blog Post." On Tuesday, Sadie Stein at Jezebel.com wrote, "How could she think this was acceptable? It's that, as much as anything else, that's worrisome: that at a mainstream magazine with a wide reach and an ostensibly progressive outlook could think, in 2010, this was okay to write and implicitly endorse."
Kelly has since issued an apology in the form of an update to her post, saying she "never wanted anyone to feel bullied or ashamed after reading this" and "for whatever it's worth, I feel just as uncomfortable when I see an anorexic person as I do when I see someone who is morbidly obese." She said she herself had a "history as an anorexic."
Her apology has also been ill-received. Multiple people on blogs and Twitter have called for a boycott of Marie Claire.
"Even your apology still smacks of judgment and condescension," wrote MarieClaire.com commenter jordanpattern on Tuesday. "Please take this opportunity to educate yourself on issues of health, sizeism, and privilege."
Tuesday, Marie Claire editor-in-chief Joanna Coles defended Kelly.
"Maura Kelly is a very provocative blogger," Coles told the blog Fashionista.com. "She was an anorexic herself and this is a subject she feels very strongly about."
Coles added that while she hasn't actually seen "Mike & Molly," she's "concerned about a show that makes fun of large people."
A spokeswoman for Marie Claire echoed Coles' sentiments in an email statement to ABCNews.com today:
"Maura Kelly is a provocative blogger. She has been extraordinarily moved by the thousands of responses she has received following her post about 'Mike & Molly.'"
'Mike & Molly' Stirs Controversy
Since it debuted on CBS this fall, "Mike & Molly" has stirred controversy. Fat jokes are the bread and butter of the show, which stars Billy Gardell as Mike, a cop, and Melissa McCarthy as Molly, a school teacher.
In a scene in the premiere episode, Molly's skinny mom eats a huge slice of freshly baked chocolate cake in front of her daughter, who's been described as a "big-boned" girl, even as she slaves away on exercise equipment.
Mike also takes his turn at the butt of the joke. In another scene from the debut episode, Mike's cop partner says he wouldn't have enough chalk to outline Mike's outsize corpse. When he later embraces Mike, he says, "It's like hugging a futon." On a more serious note, Mike is asked how he can be a cop while being so fat.
While some of the dialogue can be played for quick laughs, the slings could come at the expense of viewers desperately trying to shed pounds.
"The show is offensive," said Bonnie Taub-Dix, a registered dietitian in New York and author of "Read It before You Eat It." "I couldn't believe how insensitive the jokes were, especially the cake scene. With 17 percent of children obese in this country, what relative wouldn't keep in mind the needs of her child, even an adult one, who's trying to lose weight? It was a perfect example of what not to do."
But while Taub-Dix worries that the show will offend the overweight and contribute to the nation's burgeoning obesity problem, for Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition and public health at New York University, "Mike & Molly" offers a stark tinge of welcome reality.
"These don't strike me as jokes," said Nestle, who also wrote the book "What to Eat." "These sound like a very accurate dead-on description of the ridicule, discrimination and rudeness that overweight people hear all the time, especially when the words undermine these people's ability to lose weight. I'm impressed."
ABC News' Coeli Carr contributed reporting.