Paul Ryan Paid Tribute To Martin Luther King Jr. And Twitter Freaked Out

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On Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, it's customary for American leaders to tip their hats to the legendary civil rights activist's memory. That was certainly true this year, with countless celebrities, politicians, and athletes sharing posts about King and his legacy. But not all of these posts were interpreted as benign or uplifting - and such was the case with Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan's MLK Day tweet.

The tweet featured what many interpreted as a faux candid self-portrait of Ryan standing before a bust of MLK, positioned in what could best be described as a "thinking" pose. The caption on the photo read: "Today we remember a great man and his work. We read his sermons. We recall his sacrifices. We give back. In doing these things, we raise our gaze and renew the spirit in which we serve one another. Such is the calling of #MLKDay."

In a time when frank conversations about racism are taking place on social media on a daily basis, perceived missteps rarely go unnoticed. As such, Ryan immediately faced criticism from Twitter users, who argued that Ryan has actively fought against, well, most of the tenets of King's mission. The response was a mixture of flat outrage and coy sarcasm, but all opponents underscored that they believed Ryan had no right to evoke King's reputation for selfless service to the American people.

"He Has Lots Of Black Friends"

Studiously Thoughtful Paul Ryan

The Statue's Reaction

If The Statue Tips Over...

Cloaking Himself In A Legacy

Imagine Taking This Photo

Ryan's Internal Monologue

Destroying MLK's Dream

Darth Vader, Anyone?

"We All Have Dreams"

Taxing MLK's Ghost

Like Looking At A Wendy's Menu

About "Entitlement Reform..."

Taking Away Medicaid

Quoting MLK Out of Context

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The White Moderate

Even The Painting Is Reacting

In critiques of his post, many Twitter users referenced Ryan's known desired to institute wide-sweeping "entitlement reform," which is generally understood to mean reducing spending in a sector whose primary function is to provide basic services to impoverished Americans.

Specifically, critics expressed frustration that a politician couching social programs in economic terms would claim to reflect on the messages of an activist who famously spoke about equality. As is often the case with Twitter, they didn't let it slide.