Tommy Jordan, Who Shot Daughter's Laptop, Defends Himself
The gun-toting North Carolina dad who gave his daughter a tough-love lesson when he responded to her bratty Facebook post about him by shooting her laptop on camera has now responded to his critics in an e-mail message to ABC News.
Tommy Johnson's eight-minute rant, which ended with his shooting his 15-year-old daughter's laptop eight times, has been viewed nearly 28 million times on YouTube since it was uploaded Feb. 8. The divisive clip, in which he responds to daughter Hannah's recent Facebook wall post where she complains about her parents' making her do chores around the house, apparently prompted a visit from police and child-protection authorities.
The clip also led to both harsh criticism and showers of praise of Jordan, and ignited a debate about his in-your-face style of parenting.
In his response to ABC News Jordan, an IT worker from Albemarle, N.C., admits that the stress that he and his family have endured since the video went viral has been tough, particularly for his wife, and says that "because of that alone, I'd not do it again."
Jordan also admits that the video of his response going viral in such a huge way is an example of "the punishment accidentally outweighing the crime."
Jordan has now responded to his critics in an email message to ABC News and a posting on his blog, 8minutesoffame.com. Find his answers below:
"This is my response to ABC's newest list of questions regarding the video post," he wrote. "Thanks again to ABC Network for sending them!"
QUESTION: Your video has been viewed millions of times, was it your intention for it to garner so much attention or was it meant to be shared on a smaller scale?
ANSWER: It was meant for two audiences:
First, it was meant for the Facebook friends she has her own age that thought "Hey, that's so cool that you stood up to your parent's that way. That's awesome!" I wanted them to know in no uncertain terms that she didn't get away with it.
Secondly, it was meant to the parents of those kids who let their kids come play at my kids' house. I was mortified and embarrassed that one of my daughter's friends fathers, a local police chief, might look at that video and think "I can't believe that sorry excuse for a man lets his kids talk that way. My kids will certainly NOT be going over there again."
I guess time will tell if that worked or not. Lol. If she comes back over, I'll know I'm OK with her parents I guess. If she doesn't, I'll be REAL careful not to ever speed through that township … EVER!
Q: People have applauded your actions as good parenting and others have criticized you for being too extreme - what do you have to say to your critics as well as your supporters?
A: To those who support the decision: we sincerely thank you and appreciate it. I didn't do it for your approval, but when the crap hit the fan on the net, it was really awesome to be able to fall back on your comments and emails. I've read every one of them and I plan to somehow, someday, respond to all of them.
To the critics: Hey, you raise your children however you want. Mine don't have criminal records, don't skip school, don't fail classes, and they're polite ( most of the time). I hope your brand of parenting works well for you and your family. I'm not in your shoes and have no right to tell you how to raise your children. As long as they turn out well in the end, then our jobs as parents was well done. If you can find a way to express that in a video … I've heard that's the new thing now.
Q: You put a lot of work into her laptop, time upgrading it, $130 in software updates - why destroy the laptop? Why not just take it away?
A: Because I'd already done that, once for a brief time and once again for a longer period of time. That didn't work. I can't be sure who said it first, but Albert Einstein was credited once for saying the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
People tell me he was a pretty smart man…
Q: People who do criticize your actions seem to take most offense to the use of the gun; can you explain your choice of using the gun rather than another method of destroying the laptop?
A: Because that was what I promised her two months ago. If I'd promised to use a hammer, or promised to give it to someone else, then that's what I'd have done. If I promised to send it to the moon on the back of a rocket, I'd have been screwed I suppose, but I didn't promise that.
I was stuck by my own words. I said "If this happens again, I'll put a bullet through it." It happened again.
Q: If you could go back would you still make the video and take the same actions?
A: That's tough to answer, really. I believe everything I did was appropriate. However, I also believe the freak occurrence that made the video go viral means the punishment accidentally outweighed the crime. A couple hundred friends and friends-of-friends saw her post. So far, 27 million have seen mine. Although the more we are on the end of a public hot-plate the more we are seeing that parents across the nation are standing up for their rights as parents again and putting a stop to their kids language and feelings of entitlement, so if we struck some cord there, however accidentally, then maybe some other child won't go through this. I consider that a positive effect and it helps to make some of the drama worth it.
Even more than that is the intrusion and investigation of CPS/DSS into my family's life though. That has been stressful for each and every one of them, including my daughter. The people who thought they were doing her a favor by sending hundreds of calls to CPS only means she has to deal with some lady dropping by her life without warning for months to come, just to make sure we don't beat her and lock her in a closet at night. It about stressed my wife to the breaking point, though the final report from CPS thus far has been that there's absolutely nothing to worry about, no signs of abuse in the past, and that our family is healthy and happy overall. ( This is where I'd stick out my tongue and say something childish like "na-na-na-na-naaa-naaa-ppppffffttt" if I were on camera. Another good reason we're not doing interviews. Lol.)
But nothing we've gained is worth the stress this put on my wife and my kids thanks to CPS, so because of that alone, I'd NOT do it again.
Q: Why do you think your video has struck such a chord and maintained it popularity?
A: Because now it's political. It's a full-blown multi-sided hydra that has apparently been welling within society for quite awhile now. There's no way this would have "blown up" like it has were there not already a powder-keg problem ready to ignite.
Some (most) parents, and we've literally heard responses from across the world, have responded with, "about time someone stood up to their kids," kinds of comments.
Other parents have responded with the "oh my God you're a horrible horrible man and I hope your daughter gets pregnant just to get back at you" kind of drivel. These people don't bother me. They're bad parents to begin with in my opinion.
Kids of all ages though have written and commented along the same partisan lines. We've received the expected "you suck and you're an insert-four-letter-word-here kind of comments of course, but I've received emails and comments from kids as young as 8 and 9 years old who say "Good job, sir" and "my parents would do the same thing to me." It's been amazing to see that kind of thing, especially from young people. I wish there was some way to shake the hand of every one of their parents. They're doing it right!
Q: When your video gained popularity Child Protective Services did come to speak with you and your family, what was the result of those discussions?
A: It took about two days. When the phone rang I told the social worker I was amazed it took them this long to respond and that of course she could come over and take a look around the house and speak to me and my family. The discussions we had were long and repetitive and generally just centered around how we raise them, what the rules are, what the general types of discipline are, how they do in school, how they communicate with us, etc.
The stress of having someone in your life, however polite they appear to be, that can take your kids away from you though; that's not something I want to repeat, ever. It drove our kids crazy, my wife crazy, and myself a little crazy. In the end, there were a lot of things I was disappointed in CPS with, but I'm not going to air that here or anywhere else. The sad thing about CPS is that if you poke them back with a stick, no matter how well-deserved you might feel it is, you just invite more trouble. You don't play King of the Mountain with someone who can take your children from you. You just don't. Hopefully, their involvement in our lives is over and done with. As far as they've said; our family is fine and healthy and happy and they're satisfied on the matter. That's all I'll say on that one.
Q: What does your daughter think about all this attention, as well as her initial reaction to the video posting?
A: We talked about this one at dinner tonight, and I asked her if she would like to respond directly. She's not a big fan of being in the spotlight, but we did manage to get the following response put together.
Hannah, on her initial reaction to the video posting:
"I was mad, but you would be too. I got over it. I'm not, like, scarred for life. I wasn't as much mad that you shot it. I was mad that I found out about it from someone at school instead of you." ( Referring to me, her Dad).
Full Story on that part: Hannah got home after school on the day of the incident, and my wife wasn't home yet. I didn't want to have to put Hannah through it twice, nor did I particularly want to have to have this conversation with my wife or daughter twice either, if truth be told. I knew it was going to be a serious heart-to-heart for all involved so we wanted to have it when we were all three together. Since Amy didn't get home from work until 11:30 that evening because of emergency clinic calls, it was too late to wake Hannah up and have the conversation. I knew she'd be upset and I knew she'd be crying and I knew she had to be up for school in about five and a half more hours, so I made a judgment call that it was too much to wake her and have that conversation at that time. Of course we still had no idea this was a viral thing, because a lot of that hadn't really taken off yet. Hannah got up for school the next morning and went off to school like any other day. It still wasn't really viral, but one of her friends told her about it at school, so she didn't get to hear it from one of us directly until she got home after school that day. That was when we sat down together, calmly, and talked it out. That part, for me, is a regret. I should have woken her up that night and had the conversation, or had it with her alone when she got home, but my emotions were too raw at the moment for me to feel like I could have it in a constructive manner.
Q: What do you think about all the attention.
A: "It doesn't bother me… but I find people's responses kind of funny."
Q: "What do you think about the people who say you're going to be damaged by all this?"
A: "They're morons. They don't know the situation. They don't even know me."
Her other statements:
- "I like how the social services lady asked me if I was really gonna be a stripper. I was, like, umm, no!"
- "School has been pretty normal. It's not been embarrassing. People don't really know it's me because my last name is different. If they did I wouldn't care. I don't think it would, like, bother me."
- Her response when she saw the missed call list I've had just since dinner started: "Why do people even care? It's been, like, two weeks."
- She looked at me as we were writing this response and said "Oh yeah, if you're still planning to sell this laptop, you might want to do it now. People will buy it!"
Q: Is your daughter still grounded , what is her punishment for her remarks on Facebook?
A: Yup. In short, in addition to normal chores, no TV, no Internet (cause of the whole computer-gone-kablooey thing), no going out to the movies, dates, etc, and no new computers or gadgets until she gets the determination to earn them herself.
Q: Did you make her close her Facebook account?
A: No. I can't think of anything that would make me ever do that to her. Maybe it's because I use Facebook a lot too and I'd hate to lose six years of communications and photos and memories, but I consider that just too much. I've changed the password to her Facebook and her email account, and I'll change it back when she's no longer grounded.
Q: It's clear on the tape you were hurt by what she wrote, what bothered you the most?
A: The vulgarity. And that's been really funny to watch people's reactions. They all seem to think I'm angry because she doesn't want to do chores. It's not that at all. I'm angry because she intentionally chose language no young lady should use in public, or private for that matter. THAT was what embarrassed all of us. The other hurtful thing was the way she referred to our friend as a "cleaning lady." First, she's not a cleaning lady. Second ( even if she was a lady we paid to clean our home), it was written as if that somehow made her a second class human being and Hannah was above that station in life. There is no chore an adult will ever do when I'm around that I'm too good to do too, and certainly not one my kids are too good for. She wasn't raised that way. That probably hurt the most.
Q: What has been the reaction of your local community?
A: Oh.. let's see. My wife gets high-fives at the Toyota dealership and comments like "be sure to tell your husband we support him" kind of remarks. I get thumbs-ups from adults who recognize my face when I'm in public, at the gas station, in Lowes, even in the McDonalds drive thru the other day. No one I've met yet in person has had a negative word to say.
Q: When your video started getting attention online you did something unique, you asked people to donate to the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). Can you tell us about that and how much money has been raised?
A: Well, I'm not really sure what to tell. A friend of mine got me involved with the MDA Lock-Up a few years back and we've always tried to participate each year when they ask us to. This year, like every other, they asked if we'd like to do it again and my wife and I said yes. We went on Facebook and Twitter and sent out email blasts just like usual, trying to raise our preset goal of $800.00.
On the day the video went viral I was still WAY short if my goal. I'd raised about $320.00 total I think when I made the first post. All of the sudden the donations started rolling in like crazy. I don't have any way to know how many people in total have donated since then, but we've thus far raised about $7,800.00.
I contacted the local director of the MDA drive in my area and asked them if they'd extend the link they issued me for another few days or weeks. They said as long as donations keep coming in like they are, they'll keep it up in perpetuity, so now we're pushing it hard on the new blog site, hoping some of the momentum will continue..
Hint: wink, wink, nudge, nudge - I feel pretty certain a bump from ABC on the air about it wouldn't hurt the donations either. I'm just sayin'…
Q: What message would you like to get out and share with the public?
A: There are too many messages and lessons to be learned from this experience to list them all. We've been sitting here amongst ourselves and talking about finding some way to leverage the infamy and turn it to a good cause. That's why we built the new web site. Eight minutes and twenty-three seconds of my life have forever impacted all of my family in ways we don't even know yet, and won't fully understand for a long time to come, but we feel there are a few salient messages that need to be understood.
- In case it's not obvious by now, ANYTHING you put on the internet can follow you around for the rest of your life! I'm living proof of that and so is my daughter.
- You don't have to give into the media to get your story told the way it needs to be told. Tell it yourself. Tell it in your words. Make people hear what YOU want to say, not what they want to print or air. The average person has an amazing amount of power at their fingertips, but it takes a little luck and a lot of restraint to make it work the way you want it to and to keep your story YOUR story, not someone else's.
- Everything that's been published or written since that first post has made my stomach turn constantly. I feel like I'm grabbing an angry bull by the horns every time I make a statement or comment. You can be the best rodeo guy around, but eventually you can still get hurt regardless of how careful you are. Be careful with that. That's all I'm saying.
- On parenting, I've said it once and I'll say it again, I don't know how to be a parenting guru. None of us do. None of us have a clue how we did as parents until our kids are grown, married, have their careers, succeed at them, have kids and don't screw 'em up, and then retire. Were they good students, good soldiers or workers, keep a job, did they marry smart, how are their kids, etc. If we're lucky to live long enough to sit back together without being dottering ourselves by that time THEN we can look back on our accomplishments and say with confidence that we raised them right. In the meantime I have to use myself as an example because it's the only one I've got to work with. In my admittedly-biased point of view I think I turned out OK, so when my kids act up I just sit back and think what my Mom did to me when I did something like that. Then I probably wince a little at the memory and go do some variation on the same.
- Your kids are tougher than they look. I'm not saying be hard on them, God no, but remember that your first job is to prepare them for the world that's going to attack them full force as soon as they're grown. It's your job to give them the skills to cope, teach them the good AND the bad lessons they'll need to know. The world won't sit you down at twenty-five years old and tell you that you're great, and beautiful, and sweet, and charming, and keep giving you chance after chance. You don't get a gold star for effort in real life. They'll fire you from job after job and you'll likely blame them for it because you never learned to be responsible for your own actions. Teach them the tough lessons because you love them enough to do it, instead of avoiding it because you want to be their friend or be the cool parent. I'd rather my children be a little mad at me now and proud later in life of themselves, then proud of me now and mad at me the rest of their lives because I sent them out unprepared for reality.
Q: Are there any misconceptions about you and your family that you would like to set straight?
A: Dude … now you're really gonna make it pointless for me to write a book aren't you? Sigh. Umm … let's see.
- That Greg weirdo on YouTube is a nut-job and needs medication for his dementia. His clock stopped chiming awhile back it seems. (There's this guy on YouTube claiming to have the low-down on me … he doesn't. I've never met him, and he's certainly never met me.)
- Chuck Norris does NOT wear Tommy Jordan pajamas. He wears Sylvester Stallone pajamas, but I get the confusion. People say we look alike sometimes.
- I don't have an ex-wife, which of course precludes me from being on my third, so I hope that clears up both of those misconceptions.
- Hannah hasn't lived with us her entire life. She spent the summer here like she normally does. I asked her to consider moving up here to live with us last summer because I want to enjoy a few of those cute, kiddy years when hugs and smiles are still abundant; before she leaves for college and Dad's aren't considered cool. So she's lived here almost a year. She spent her previous years with her Mom, who is an awesome mother in her own right. Hannah just wanted some Dad time before she got too old to enjoy it and I jumped at the chance to have her in my life full time. Truthfully she thought life here was easier and there were less chores … boy should she have done her research first, huh?
- Yes, I'm the high-school sweetheart my wife talks about, and she was mine too. That's another story though.
- Don't let the cowboy hat fool you. I'm not the redneck some of these viewers think I am, and neither are the rest of my family, but that's OK. We collectively superlatively enjoy being vastly underestimated. My wife is a summa-cum-laude graduate with a perfect GPA throughout all eight years of college, and is a doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM), a full time mother, a wife, learning to play guitar, and still finds time for continuing education and somehow manages to find time to read enough books that I really need to buy stock in Kindle. My kids are honors students and always have been. And I've been doing things the hard way all my life because I CAN, not because I'm incapable of the easy way. I just believe anything worth having is worth working for and that doing things the easy way doesn't teach you how to cope when things go wonky. I built my company with a partner and absolutely no more investment capital than we had in our pockets that first day, and that might have been about twenty-bucks and I have a customer retention rate that has never dropped below 95 percent, which is ridiculously unheard of in the IT world, AND I've survived the recession thus far while managing to keep my company open, so I'm doing something right!