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Cleveland Website Mocks Ariel Castro Kidnap Victims In Bizarre Christmas Facebook Post

CoolCleveland, an events website, was criticized on social media for a Facebook post mentioning “gingerbread sex slaves,” seemingly referring to the three women who were held captive for a decade in Ariel Castro's Cleveland home.

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt

A website dedicated to advertising local events in Cleveland, Ohio, is facing immense backlash after publishing a Facebook post about a gingerbread house-themed event and inexplicably including a startling reference to the victims of convicted kidnapper and rapist Ariel Castro in the description.

CoolCleveland’s post, which has since been deleted (although captured via screenshot by Cleveland.com), advertised a gingerbread house-building event, or “Gingerbread Construction Zone,” hosted by the TownHall restaurant. The post, in an ill-advised attempt at being cheeky, said there was a “foreclosure crisis” that's left behind “empty gingerbread houses” in Cleveland.

“Many end up becoming dens for cracker addicts,” the post read. “In one notorious case, three missing gingerbread women were found held as gingerbread sex slaves for 10 years while gingerbread police remained baffled…”

The joke seemed to be alluding to the traumatic experiences endured by Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight, three women who were kidnapped by Ariel Castro and held in his Cleveland home for years before escaping in 2013. Castro pleaded guilty to multiple counts of kidnapping and rape, and was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years. He later committed suicide in prison.

The off-color joke offended many on social media, including those in charge at the TownHall restaurant, who told Cleveland.com via a representative that it was “appalled” by the post.

“We had no prior knowledge of the article, nor did we approve the article in any way,” Kayla Barnes, TownHall’s director of communications, said. “The moment we saw the post, I personally called CoolCleveland to express the inappropriateness and requested it be taken down immediately.”

Publisher Thomas Mulready issued a statement apologizing for the “inexcusable and inappropriate” post, which he called a “poor attempt at humor.” 

“It is never OK to make light of such serious issues, and I take full and personal responsibility for this post ever being published,” his statement read. “We apologize to anyone who may have read this egregious post, to victims and survivors, and to the community of Cleveland. When we started CoolCleveland over 16 years ago, it was to help and support the cool events, cool people and cool venues in our region, not to cause further harm and pain.”

Mulready apologized to Townhall in his statement, and reiterated that the restaurant was not responsible for the offensive post. In addition to ensuring that its staff members undergo “training,” CoolCleveland has made a donation to a “non-profit organization that helps survivors and victims,” Mulready said. The company has also made “immediate changes to our staffing.”

Mulready elaborated on the changes in a Facebook comment, writing, “The writer no longer works with CoolCleveland. I take full responsibility for the human error that allowed the post to be published in the first place.”

[Photo: Associated Press]

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