On Sunday, America learned that President Donald Trump had been recorded allegedly pressuring a Georgia official to overturn the results of a free election. Yet, much of the internet’s focus was on prominent Seattle musician John Roderick, who became the most hated parent on social media after a controversial Twitter screed went viral.
The acclaimed indie rocker, now more widely known as “Bean Dad,” issued an apology on Tuesday for his series of posts that drew widespread criticism.
“I want to acknowledge and make amends for the injuries I caused. I have many things to atone for,” Roderick wrote on his website. “My parenting story’s insensitivity and the legacy of hurtful language in my past are both profound failures. I want to confront them directly.”
Over the weekend, the songwriting engine behind 2000s indie rock favorites the Long Winters posted a since-deleted Twitter thread about making his hungry 9-year-old figure out on her own how to use a can opener to crack a can of beans. Roderick described the anecdote as a “teachable moment” that led to a six-hour struggle driving his daughter to tears and, eventually, a bland yet prideful victory snack.
The story positioned Roderick as a hardheaded parent deriving some pleasure in making his increasingly frustrated kid learn a mundane task the unnecessarily hard way as a life lesson of sorts. All in all, the parenting tale was on-brand for Roderick and his self-described “’pedant dad’ comedic persona.” Regardless, it did not go over well.
As the retweets mounted, users accused the musician and podcaster of everything from child abuse to simply being a jerk, with several people likening Roderick’s story to abuse they had experienced.
“I was a fan, John, but my dad doing stuff like this to me is the reason we aren’t close these days,” wrote one Twitter user. “What was fun for you was 6 hours of frustration for her, and the main thing she learned is ‘dad can’t be trusted to help me when I need it.'”
With the controversy growing, users dug up past tweets from Roderick using racist, homophobic and ableist language, and in one case, making light of sexual assault. In some instances, the musician and former Seattle City Council candidate’s casual deployment of slurs appeared to be troublesome attempts at humor. Other times the context was unclear.
Through a spokesperson, Roderick declined to be interviewed for this story.
Amid the intensifying criticism, some of Roderick’s friends and peers came to his defense, including “Jeopardy!” wiz Ken Jennings, who co-hosts the “Omnibus” podcast with Roderick. Just days earlier, Jennings had come under fire for his own archive of questionable tweets, which surfaced amid speculation that Jennings could replace the late Alex Trebek as the next “Jeopardy!” host. (Jennings starts as the first interim guest host on “Jeopardy!” on Monday, Jan. 11.)
By Sunday afternoon, another popular podcast, “My Brother, My Brother and Me,” announced that it would no longer use the Long Winters’ “[It’s a] Departure” as its opening song in light of Roderick’s handling of the situation. Podcasting platform Maximum Fun HQ, which hosts Roderick’s “Friendly Fire” podcast, announced Roderick will be suspended from the show indefinitely without pay. The move was somewhat of a reversal after the company’s founder had earlier defended Roderick.
After initially dismissing the critiques as coming from those unfamiliar with his humor, Roderick deactivated his Twitter account. “The only thing people are touchier about than parenting style is dog ownership,” Roderick wrote Sunday in a typically sarcastic tweet.
Tuesday’s lengthy apology strikes a far more contrite tone for the musician, who is working with a crisis management PR specialist Roderick describes as a friend.
“I framed the story with me as the asshole dad because that’s my comedic persona and my fans and friends know it’s ‘a bit,'” Roderick wrote on his website.
“What I didn’t understand when posting that story, was that a lot of the language I used reminded people very viscerally of abuse they’d experienced at the hand of a parent. The idea that I would withhold food from her, or force her to solve a puzzle while she cried, or bind her to the task for hours without a break all were images of child abuse that affected many people very deeply. Rereading my story, I can see what I’d done.”
Roderick described his use of various slurs and other insensitive language as ironic and sarcastic, “flipping them to mock racism, sexism, homophobia, and bigotry” as a form of allyship. While some of the resurfaced tweets appeared to lampoon such hate speech, others lacked context or were more difficult to view as displays of allyship.
“It was a lazy and damaging ideology, that I continued to believe long past the point I should’ve known better that because I was a hipster intellectual from a diverse community it was ok for me to joke and deploy slurs in that context,” he wrote. “It was not. I realized, sometime in the early part of the decade, helped by real-life friends and Twitter friends too, that my status as a straight white male didn’t permit me to ‘repurpose’ those slurs as people from disenfranchised communities might do.”
Roderick’s career took off in the early 2000s with the Long Winters, a band that was part of the Northwest’s indie-rock boom at the time. While not reaching the commercial heights of some of his peers, Roderick became a nationally renowned singer-songwriter, releasing three albums on Seattle’s respected Barsuk Records. The Long Winters, which consisted of Roderick and a rotating cast of prominent Seattle musicians, had gone into hibernation by the end of the decade and Roderick has developed into more of a Seattle personality and prolific podcaster. In 2015, Roderick launched an unsuccessful City Council bid, positioning himself as a progressive urbanist with a nontraditional background.
Aside from his suspended role with “Friendly Fire,” Roderick’s podcasting ventures include “Roderick on the Line,” “Road Work” and the “Omnibus” project that he co-hosts with Jennings. Early last year, he released an album with his pre-Long Winters band Western State Hurricanes, playing two release shows at the Tractor Tavern.