With the number of interviews they do and social media posts they make throughout their careers, most celebrities probably expect to have their words taken out of context a time or two. Sometimes, they rightfully call it out, like when Halsey called out a magazine that "bastardized a quote where [they] discuss the privilege of being the white child of a Black parent and intentionally used a portion that was the antithesis of the point I was trying to make."
However, some celebs use "taken out of context" as a defense when they face backlash over a controversial comment.
Here are 13 times celebs said something controversial, then backtracked and claimed it was taken out of context:
1. THE QUOTE: Kim Kardashian told Variety, "I have the best advice for women in business. Get your fucking ass up and work. It seems like nobody wants to work these days."
THE CONTROVERSY: She faced backlash because the comments failed to acknowledge the privilege and wealth she was born into.
THE DEFENSE: On Good Morning America, she said, "That statement that I said was without questions and conversation around it. It became a sound bite really with no context. And that sound bite came off the notion and the question right before, which was after 20 years of being in the business you're famous for being famous."
She continued, "It wasn't a blanket statement towards women or to feel like I don't respect the work or think that they don't work hard. ... It was taken out of context, but I'm really sorry if it was received that way."
2. THE QUOTE: Sydney Sweeney told the Hollywood Reporter, "If I wanted to take a six-month break, I don’t have income to cover that."
THE CONTROVERSY: After her comment went viral, people criticized her for being out of touch since most people can't afford to take six months off work either.
THE DEFENSE: She told Elle, "I was asked if I wanted to have a family and I said yes. And then I was asked why I didn’t have one yet, and I was like, I don’t have time to take even, like, a six-month break. Like, I don’t have time to be able to start this family."
"It was kind of skewed with the public and taken out of context, which was insane to watch and kind of disappointing, too, because I think that being a mother, and a working mother, is really important," she said.
3. THE QUOTE: After facing criticism for playing an Asian character in Ghost in the Shell and accepting the role of a transgender man in Rub & Tug (which she stepped down from following backlash), Scarlett Johansson told AS IF, "You know, as an actor I should be allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal because that is my job and the requirements of my job."
THE CONTROVERSY: She was called out for taking roles that weren't hers to play and taking away opportunities from minority actors. Her comments also sparked a meme in which users posted a picture of literally anyone or anything and joked it was being played by Scarlett Johansson.
THE DEFENSE: In a statement to BuzzFeed News, she said, "An interview that was recently published has been edited for click bait and is widely taken out of context. The question I was answering in my conversation with the contemporary artist, David Salle, was about the confrontation between political correctness and art. I personally feel that, in an ideal world, any actor should be able to play anybody and Art, in all forms, should be immune to political correctness. That is the point I was making, albeit didn't come across that way."
She continued, "I recognize that in reality, there is a wide spread discrepancy amongst my industry that favors Caucasian, cis gendered actors and that not every actor has been given the same opportunities that I have been privileged to. I continue to support, and always have, diversity in every industry and will continue to fight for projects where everyone is included."
4. THE QUOTE: At the 2016 Berlin Film Festival, an Egyptian journalist asked Meryl Streep if she thought she could understand African and Middle Eastern films. As reported by the Associated Press, she replied, "I don’t know very much, honestly, about the Middle East. And yet I’ve played a lot of different people from a lot of different cultures, and the thing that I notice is that we’re all — there is a core of humanity that travels right through every culture. And after all, we’re all from Africa, originally. You know, we’re all Berliners, we’re all Africans, really."
THE CONTROVERSY: Her "we're all Africans" remark was criticized alongside the then-ongoing #OscarsSoWhite debate about the lack of diversity in movies.
THE DEFENSE: In an essay for HuffPost, she wrote, "Contrary to distorted reporting, no one at that press conference addressed a question to me about the racial makeup of the jury. I did not 'defend' the 'all-white jury,' nor would I, if I had been asked to do so. Inclusion — of races, genders, ethnicities and religions — is important to me, as I stated at the outset of the press conference."
She continued, "I was not minimizing difference, but emphasizing the invisible connection empathy enables, a thing so central to the fact of being human, and what art can do: convey another person's experience. To be in Berlin is to see proof that walls don't work."
5. THE QUOTE: Discussing recent criticism of the lack of diversity on Friends, David Schwimmer told the Guardian, "Maybe there should be an all-Black Friends or an all-Asian Friends."
THE CONTROVERSY: Calling him out on Twitter, Living Single actor Erika Alexander said, "R u seriously telling me you’ve never heard of #LivingSingle? We invented the template! Yr welcome bro."
THE DEFENSE: In a direct response to Erika, he tweeted, "As you know, I was asked recently in an interview for The Guardian how I felt (for the thousandth time) about a reboot of Friends immediately following a conversation about diversity on the show, and so offered up other possibilities for a reimagining of the show today."
He continued, "I didn't mean to imply Living Single hadn't existed or indeed hadn't come before Friends, which I knew it had. Please remember, in an interview, quotes are often pieced together and taken out of context, and then these quotes are repurposed in other articles by other people who are trying to be provocative."
6. THE QUOTE: At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Vanessa Hudgens went live on Instagram to complain about events being canceled. She said, "But like, it's a virus. I get it, I respect it. But at the same time, like, even if everyone gets it, like yeah, people are gonna die, which is terrible, but like, inevitable?"
THE CONTROVERSY: She faced backlash over her ignorance and for making light of how dangerous the coronavirus pandemic is.
THE DEFENSE: The next day, she returned to Instagram and said, "I realize today that some of my comments are being taken out of context. It's a crazy time...and I am at home in lockdown. That's what I hope you guys are doing too...I don't take this situation lightly, by any means."
However, following further backlash, she released a second statement several hours later. She apologized and said, "I realize my words were insensitive and not at all appropriate for the situation in our country and the world [we] are in right now. This has been a huge wake up call about the significance my words have, now more than ever."
7. THE QUOTE: After discussing how he and Ben Affleck had to dispel rumors they were gay early in their careers, Matt Damon told the Guardian, "I think it must be really hard for actors to be out publicly. But in terms of actors, I think you’re a better actor the less people know about you period. And sexuality is a huge part of that. Whether you’re straight or gay, people shouldn’t know anything about your sexuality because that’s one of the mysteries that you should be able to play."
THE DEFENSE: On Ellen, he said, "I was just trying to say actors are more effective when they’re a mystery. Right? And somebody picked it up and said I said gay actors should get back in the closet. Which is like, I mean, it’s stupid, but it is painful when things get said that you don’t believe."
He continued, "In the blogosphere, there’s no real penalty for just taking the ball and running with it. You know what I mean? You’re just trying to click on your thing."
8. THE QUOTE: On The Howard Stern Show, Ben Affleck said that he'd "probably still be drinking" if he was still married to Jennifer Garner. He continued, "It's part of why I started drinking...because I was trapped. ... I was like 'I can't leave 'cause of my kids, but I'm not happy, what do I do?' What I did was drink a bottle of scotch and fall asleep on the couch, which turned out not to be the solution."
THE DEFENSE: On Jimmy Kimmel Live, he said, "At the end of the interview, I thought: 'Wow, I should do more honest, exploratory, self-evaluating things.' ... [Then] I started seeing all this stuff come up on Twitter...and I sort of researched through it and saw that one of these websites had done the clickbait thing. I looked on [the article], and they had literally taken the conversation that I had had for two hours and made it seem as if I was saying the exact opposite of what I had said."
He continued, "They said that I have blamed my ex-wife for my alcoholism and that I was 'trapped' in this marriage. [They] just made me out to be the worst, most insensitive, stupid, awful guy. ... It’s the exact opposite of who I am, what I believe. I would never want my kids to think I would ever say a bad word about their mom. Because I never had, I never would."
9. THE QUOTE: Guitarist Carlos Santana told the New Zealand Herald, "I think that Adele won [her Grammys] because she can sing-sing. With all respect to our sister Beyoncé, Beyoncé is very beautiful to look at and it’s more like modeling kind of music — music to model a dress — she’s not a singer-singer, with all respect to her."
THE CONTROVERSY: He was criticized for saying that Beyoncé — who has more Grammys than any other woman in music history — isn't a good singer.
THE DEFENSE: In a Facebook post, he said, "My intent was to congratulate Adele on her amazing night at the Grammys. My comment about Beyoncé was regretfully taken out of context. I have the utmost respect for her as an artist and a person. She deserves all the accolades that come her way."
10. THE QUOTE: At the 2017 Women's March, Madonna said, "Yes, I’m angry. Yes, I am outraged. Yes, I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House. But I know that this won’t change anything. We cannot fall into despair."
THE DEFENSE: On Instagram, she said, "I am not a violent person, I do not promote violence, and it’s important people hear and understand my speech in its entirety rather than one phrase taken wildly out of context. My speech began with 'I want to start a revolution of love.' I spoke in metaphor and I shared two ways of looking at things — one was to be hopeful, and one was to feel anger and outrage, which I have personally felt."
She added, "However, I know that acting out of anger doesn’t solve anything. And the only way to change things for the better is to do it with love."
11. THE QUOTE: Discussing New York City around 9/11, Ozzy Osbourne told Shortlist, "I wasn’t scared, I was excited! It was my kind of craziness, y'know. The day after that happened, there was fucking nobody in New York. I remember standing on the steps of the hotel. You know when you see an old cowboy film and that tumbleweed rolls past on the ground? There was newspapers just floating around on the streets. It was so fucking weird."
THE CONTROVERSY: He was criticized for saying that the aftermath of the terrorist attacks that killed thousands made him feel "excited."
THE DEFENSE: In a statement, he said, "Several quotes were pulled from an interview I did for Shortlist that were taken out of context. I apologise to anyone who may see these quotes and believe this is actually how I feel. Please know that I would never want to offend or hurt anyone — that was never or would ever be my intention."
He added, "You would think that at my age I would finally realise that any conversation with a journalist can be twisted, reprinted, and made into another story. It's another life lesson learned."
12. THE QUOTE: After the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, Lana Del Rey told BBC Radio 1, "The madness of Trump, as bad as it was, it really needed to happen. We really needed a reflection of our world's greatest problem, which is not climate change, but sociopathy and narcissism. Especially in America. It's going to kill the world. ... We finally have to address this big issue in the world, of what do we do with people who don't know they're hurting other people — like Trump. He doesn't know that he's inciting a riot, and I believe that. He's got delusions of grandeur. I think he's unwell."
THE CONTROVERSY: She was accused of defending then-president Donald Trump and his supporters who stormed the Capitol.
THE DEFENSE: On Twitter, she said, "Just to take a moment to say that what I was describing with the BBC was that Trump is so significantly impaired that he may not know what he was doing due to his significant lack of empathy and the wider ranging problem is the issue of sociopathy and narcissism in America."
She continued, "I'll say it again — I don't appreciate the larger magazines taking my well-intentioned and believe it or not liberal comments out of context."