Sarah Silverman in Twitter Tiff With Tech Bigwigs

Comic in online row with TED curator Chris Anderson, AOL co-founder Steve Case.

February 16, 2010, 12:17 PM

Feb. 16, 2010— -- When organizers of the star-studded tech conference TED invited comedian Sarah Silverman to speak, they might not have known what they were getting themselves into.

The comic has made a name for herself by trafficking in the taboo. Abortion, AIDS, racist slurs, you name it -- for the raven-haired, silver-tongued Silverman, nothing seems to be out of bounds.

On the Web site for the elite Technology, Education and Design conference, which has previously hosted Al Gore, Richard Dawkins, Bill Gates and the Google founders, Silverman is described as "Brilliant, funny, political and always inappropriate."

Apparently, TED wasn't fully prepared for that kind of comedy.

After the comedienne spoke Friday at this year's TED idea conference in Long Beach, Calif., the event's curator Chris Anderson and AOL co-founder Steve Case took to Twitter to express their dismay.

Though Anderson appears to have deleted the comment from his feed, after Silverman's speech, he reportedly wrote, "I know I shouldn't say this about one of my own speakers, but I thought Sarah Silverman was god-awful…"

According to tech blog TechCrunch and others who attended the event, Silverman's talk featured a bit about wanting to adopt a "retarded" child, presumably in response to Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's recent campaign to ban the "R-word."

In response to Anderson's comment, Silverman hit back with a barb of her own.

"Kudos to @TEDChris for making TED an unsafe haven for all! You're a barnacle of mediocrity on Bill Gates' a**hole," she tweeted.

Case then joined the tweet-fest, posting Sunday, "Shame on you @SarahKSilverman." And then later, "The sad thing is you're not that funny."

Those tweets drew even more jibes from Silverman.

"@SteveCase You should be nicer to the last person on earth w an aol account," she wrote, escalating the exchange even further.

"I left AOL 10 yrs ago. You need new material," he wrote.

Silverman tweeted back the question, "is 2005 10 yrs ago already?," with a link to an October 2005 story announcing Case's resignation from the Time Warner board of directors.

Case responded, "I stepped down as CEO of AOL in 2000. By my count, that works out to 10 years."

Representatives for Silverman, Anderson and Case did not immediately respond to requests for comment from But a media contact for Anderson pointed out a blog post published on his Posterous account today, offering some "final thoughts" on the online "kerfuffle."

"Yes, we did know we were taking a risk booking her," he wrote. "She's a smart provocateur with a wide range of material."

But, he added that TED asked her to create a talk specifically for the event, excluding her "more extreme content."

"TED talks work best when the speaker shows up for the full conference and takes the time to absorb audience and context. Didn't happen," Anderson continued. "Call me stuffy, but I still think humor about terminally-ill 'retarded' kids is an acquired taste. And not a taste I personally want to acquire."

Though some of the audience "got her and loved her," he said, some were "sickened by her."

"TED is all for edginess, intelligent humor, and, in the right circumstance, provocation. TED is not so big on humiliation and debasement," he wrote. "There's a fine line between the two, and different people draw it in different places."

Still, he apologized for the tweet, adding, "Though I have to say, you're a way more eloquent insulter than I am."

Theirs aren't the first tweets to stir controversy online. Click on to the next page to read a few more.

Twitter Joke Leads to Arrest, Airport Ban

In January, a British man was arrested and reportedly banned from a local airport after joking on Twitter that he was going to blow the U.K.'s Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield "sky high."

After a snowstorm threatened to interfere with his travel plans, Paul Chambers, 26, took to Twitter to release his frustration, according to the U.K.'s The Independent.

"Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your sh** together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!," he reportedly wrote.

Chambers thought he was just being funny, but British authorities apparently took a different view. A week after posting the message, he was arrested under the Terrorism Act and detained for nearly seven hours.

Though he was ultimately released on bail, Chambers said he has been banned from the airport for life, The Independent reported.

"I would never have thought, in a thousand years, that any of this would have happened because of a Twitter post," Chambers told the paper. "I'm the most mild-mannered guy you could imagine."

In October, Meghan McCain, blogger and daughter of former presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, threatened to quit Twitter and then apologized to her nearly 60,000 followers on the social media site after posting a racy picture of herself in a tank top.

Describing it as a snapshot of her "spontaneous" night in, the photo showed a scantily covered McCain holding an Andy Warhol biography in her hand.

Apparently responding to criticism, McCain quickly followed up her picture with a longer explanation.

"So I took a fun picture not thinking anything about what I was wearing but apparently anything other than a pantsuit I am a slut," she wrote, later adding "I can't even tell you how hurt I am."

Soon after, she considered closing her Twitter account altogether.

"Why I have been considering deleting my twitter account, what once was fun now just seems like a vessel for harassment," she wrote. Later, she escalated her threat.

"Ok I am getting the f*** off twitter, promise not to delete my account until I sleep on it, thank you for the nice words supporters," McCain tweeted.

Finally, she apologized to her followers -- "I have clearly made a huge mistake and am sorry 2 those that are offended" -- but not without one last plug for her new column that launched the same day.

"In the meantime, my new column for The Daily Beast," she wrote, linking to the news site.

Schwarzenegger Wields Knife in Video

In July, Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger surprised the Twittersphere when he was seen wielding a two-foot-long knife in a video link posted on Twitter.

In a 27-second video clip, the husky governor addressed his followers while holding a two-foot-long knife.

While the state wrestles with a $26 billion deficit, the celebrity turned Republican governor posted the video as a thank-you to constituents for their ideas on how to pay down the massive deficit, particularly one suggestion to autograph and then auction off state-owned cars.

"Hey guys, I just want to say thanks very much for all the great ideas you're giving me," he said. "You come up with great ideas. Why not just sign the cars since you're a celebrity governor? Sign the cars and sell it for more money. … That's exactly what we're going to do."

According to The Associated Press, Schwarzenegger's spokesman Aaron McLear said the knife was a gift from a friend and arrived Tuesday. He also said the governor actually does intend to sign state vehicles before they're auctioned off in late August. Officials estimate that selling 15 percent of the state's 40,000 government-owned cars could raise about $24 million.

When a reporter asked Schwarzenegger Wednesday whether the video was appropriate, given how seriously the budget cuts are affecting the lives of some Californians, the governor went on the defense.

"Not that I have fun with making the cuts -- they sadden me -- but ... that doesn't mean that you cannot wave a knife around, or to wave your sword around, to get the message across that certain cuts have to be made because it's budget time," Schwarzenegger said during a news conference.

Last year, author Alice Hoffman caught some flack for getting huffy with a critic via Twitter. Hoffman wasn't too pleased when Roberta Silman said Hoffman's novel "lacked the spark of earlier work" and that "the author doesn't deliver" in a Boston Globe review of her new book, "The Story Sisters."

According to the tweets reprinted on Gawker, she called Silman a "moron" and said "no wonder there is no book section in the Globe anymore."

Her tweets continued, until finally Hoffman committed a major social media no-no and posted Silman's phone number on Twitter in case followers wanted "to tell Roberta Silman off."

Her tiff generated such a buzz that she finally issued an apology through her publicist.

"I feel this whole situation has been completely blown out of proportion. Of course I was dismayed by Roberta Silman's review which gave away the plot of the novel, and in the heat of the moment I responded strongly and I wish I hadn't.

"I'm sorry if I offended anyone. Reviewers are entitled to their opinions and that's the name of the game in publishing. I hope my readers understand that I didn't mean to hurt anyone and I'm truly sorry if I did," she wrote.

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