American Apparel: Challenger Disaster Photo Posted As Fireworks On Company’s Tumblr

American Apparel still has some issues, it would seem, even after ousting its controversial founder and CEO Dov Charney. But while Charney, his personal issues aside, was known for advertising that pushed the boundaries of decorum with its scantily clad young models in sexually suggestive poses, on Thursday American Apparel celebrated July 4 by posting a photo of one of the country’s most traumatic moments — apparently thinking that it was fireworks.

The photo depicted the tragic explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, on January 28, 1986.

When it inevitably apologized, American Apparel offered the interesting excuse that the social media manager who re-blogged the photo didn’t recognize it because he or she was younger than 28 years old and “international” — and therefore had never heard of the Challenger disaster.

“A young social media employee who was born after the Challenger tragedy unfortunately re-blogged a photograph of the explosion on our Tumblr account unaware of the context,” read a post on the company’s official Twitter account. “We deeply apologize for the insensitivity of that selection and the post has been deleted.”

With our sincerest apologies:

— American Apparel (@americanapparel) July 3, 2014

The Los Angeles-based clothing manufacturer posted a somewhat Photoshopped version of an iconic photo of the Challenger disaster on the company’s Tumblr page. Whoever was responsible for the misguided posting tagged the photo #smoke and #clouds.

While those descriptions were accurate enough, they hardly capture the horror felt by Americans when the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff nearly 30 years ago, killing all seven astronauts on board. American Apparel went into immediate damage control mode, pulling the errant posting after about 45 minutes and issuing its apology when internet users bombarded American Apparel with disgusted and outraged comments.

“This is the iconic image of the Challenger space shuttle exploding, not just some cool smoke and clouds,” wrote one commenter, Amy Vernon.


Some also posted the actual photo, showing the immediate aftermath of the explosion.

For those born after 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded just 73 seconds into its flight, disintegrating over the Atlantic Ocean off the east coast of central Florida. Space shuttle missions, then the focus of America’s space program, were put on hold for almost three years after the tragedy.

All seven astronauts died, including 37-year-old New Hampshire schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, who had won out over 11,000 other applicants to become the first teacher in space.

Just two weeks ago, the American Apparel board of directors fired the company’s founder and CEO Dov Charney, who for years had been in the middle of controversy, including several sexual harassment allegations. But just when American Apparel though it had rid itself of one PR disaster, it faced another with its “insensitive” Challenger post.

Oddly, the American Apparel post was the second time this year the Challenger disaster has been recalled in what critics have said was an inappropriate context. Earlier, pop star Beyoncé upset the families of the Challenger astronauts by including mission control recordings from the disaster in her song “XO” and its accompanying music video, which depicted the singer smiling and laughing at Coney Island amusement park in New York.