He’s standing by his message, but Roger Ebert admits he may have said it too soon.
Following a Tweet implying that the death of daredevil Ryan Dunn was linked to drunk driving – “Friends don’t let jackasses drink and drive,” the film critic said – Ebert is offering his apologies to Dunn’s fans, family and friends, including Dunn’s Jackass costar Bam Margera.
“I have no way of knowing if Ryan Dunn was drunk at the time of his death,” Ebert, 69, writes on his Chicago Sun-Times blog. “I don’t know what happened in this case, and I was probably too quick to Tweet.”
But Ebert was also quick to cite the facts as he heard them when news of the accident first broke Monday morning, including the police statement that speed may have have been a contributing factor. Also killed was Zachary Hartwell, and a photo of Dunn holding a beverage with two friends earlier in the evening might suggest the Jackass stuntman had been drinking alcohol.
“I also regret that my Tweet about the event was considered cruel,” Ebert continues. “It was not intended as cruel. It was intended as true.”
Dunn’s costar and longtime friend Margera was one of those who found Ebert’s words offensive. “I just lost my best friend, I have been crying hysterical for a full day,” he Tweeted in response to Ebert’s comments. “Millions of people are crying right now, shut your fat f–– mouth.”
But Ebert looked to the Viva La Bam star’s mother April Margera for further clarification that his argument wasn’t completely unfounded. April, who gave an interview to NBC, said: “He drove too fast and I yelled at him all the time about that.”
As for the use of the term “jackass” in his post, Ebert’s wife Chaz tells PEOPLE that it was intended not as an insult, but as a nod to the franchise that brought Dunn to fame.
“Roger and I extend our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Ryan Dunn and Zachary Hartwell on their tragic deaths,” she says. “When Roger used the word ‘jackass’ in his Tweet, he was obviously referring to Dunn’s affiliation with the movie, and was not referring to Dunn himself.”
BY ALISON SCHWARTZ