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Now Trending: American Apparel apologizes after posting insensitive photo of Challenger disaster

People passing near Yonge and Gould streets look up at an American Apparel store billboard in Toronto.

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail


American Apparel has learned the hard way that the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster remains fresh in the minds of the general public.

As reported by The Los Angeles Times, the clothing company has issued a profound apology for posting a stylized picture of the Challenger explosion onto its Tumblr page earlier this week.

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On Jan. 28, 1986, the Challenger shuttle broke apart 73 seconds into its planned flight, taking the lives of seven crew members, including schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, who was on the mission as a payload specialist.

The photograph capturing the moment that the Challenger shuttle exploded has become one of the most haunting news photos of the 20th century.

On Thursday, a photoshopped version of the photograph, which set the doomed Challenger's smoke plumes against a vivid red background, went up on American Apparel's Tumblr page, presumably in consort with the July 4 holiday weekend in the United States.

The edited image was tagged as "Smoke Clouds."

Within moments of the picture's posting, several Tumblr users immediately pointed out the company's insensitive gaffe.

Said one commenter: "This is the iconic image of the Challenger space shuttle exploding. Not just some cool smoke and clouds."

American Apparel quickly removed the offending image late Thursday afternoon.

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On Thursday night, the Twitter account for American Apparel sent out an apology for the mistake.

The mea culpa: "We deeply apologize for today's Tumblr post of the Space Shuttle Challenger. The image was re-blogged in error by one of our international social media employees who was born after the tragedy and was unaware of the event."

The apology closes with, "We sincerely regret the insensitivity of that selection and the post has been deleted."

The American Apparel blunder comes only two weeks after the company ousted its Canadian-born founder and CEO Dov Charney amid allegations of misspending and charges of sexual harassment.

And while Charney can truthfully say the Challenger gaffe didn't happen on his watch, it's worth pointing out that this wasn't the first instance of American Apparel offending consumers.

On Oct. 30, 2012, while Hurricane Sandy was tearing up most of U.S. East Coast, the retailer sent out an e-mail blast stating, "In case you're bored during the storm. 20 per cent off everything for the next 36 hours."

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As should have been expected, social-media reaction to American Apparel's sales promotion was immediate and harshly negative.

Disgruntled e-mail recipient Whitney Hess (@whitneyhess) pretty much summed up the general response with her tweet: "I just received a 'Hurricane Sandy sale' e-mail blast from American Apparel. I will forever boycott their stores."


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