Artist Rights

‘Ren & Stimpy’ Creator John Kricfalusi’s Apology Triggers Backlash From Victims

On Friday, Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi published an apology on his Facebook page in response to a story published in Buzzfeed last March that detailed a romantic relationship with a teenaged girl and other accusations of sexual harassment and abuse.

In the 11-page letter, which Kricfalusi says he first wrote a draft around the time of the Buzzfeed piece but was advised not to publish, he apologizes to the two people profiled in the exposé, Robyn Byrd and Katie Rice, while denying parts of the Buzzfeed article. “There is some general truth in it,” he writes, “some things I remember somewhat differently, some not at all. The writer exaggerated and presented some things out of context for tabloid consumption.”

The letter then takes an unexpected turn, in which Kricfalusi spends six pages reminiscing about the good memories he has of Byrd, who he started a relationship with at the age of 16, and Rice, with whom he never had a physical relationship but spent years pursuing, including when she was an employee of his now-defunct Spumco.

He then follows with apologies to his fans, supporters, and family, and offers praise for his former co-workers.

In another controversial section of the letter, entitled “No Excuses,” Kricfalusi says that he was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder and ADHD, which he says “makes it almost impossible to control your impulses and obsessions.” He writes that at the time of the Buzzfeed article, he was preparing to start a new studio and new series, but “now that this article has come out, I imagine it is not to be.”

The letter triggered a swift and angry reaction, not only from Kricfalusi’s victims, but also from others on social media. One of the victims, Robyn Byrd, commented on Kricfalusi’s Facebook post:

I don’t find any apology strong or heartfelt enough for taking away a person’s adolescent motivation, her hopes to be an artist, and her sexual agency…We don’t accept this non-apology, neither do any of the other girls he doesn’t bother to mention, and it’s a big pile of manipulative crap. There you go.

On Twitter, Byrd followed up with a series of tweets that told a story that did not appear in the original Buzzfeed piece, about how she had an abortion at the age of 18 while carrying Kricfalusi’s child, and how she was picked up at the abortion clinic by Kricfalusi’s employee Steve Worth, who she describes as “the last person you would ever want to come pick you up from such a life event.”

Katie Rice was also disappointed by Kricfalusi’s attempt to reminisce in the apology, writing on Facebook:

Since we’re doing show and tell, maybe I should share some more of the stuff I’ve got from back then.

One of the key criticisms of the apology was how Kricfalusi used his medical conditions as an excuse for inappropriate behavior. Steven McVey wrote on Facebook:

Way to add to the stigma that the rest of us in the bipolar community already face. Your depression and ADD didn’t cause you to pursue romantic relationships with adolescent girls. Your power and sense of entitlement did. Most of us bipolar folks don’t hurt anyone other than maybe ourselves, but we all have to walk around in a world that thinks we’re dangerous, in large part because of people like you who blame their bad acts on their mental illness. You knew what you were doing was wrong, but you did it anyway because you thought your power and privelege [sic] would protect you. Stop throwing the bipolar community under the bus because you can’t control yourself.

Others like Adele K. Thomas cited the oddity of Kricfalusi recalling the “good times” when in fact neither Byrd nor Rice recall their experiences with Kricfalusi fondly:

John, I have to say that I think you should have kept this private and sent it to Robyn and Katie directly, and let them choose how to deal with it. But it isn’t a proper apology…

You recalling all the “good times” for you, are not good times for them looking back. They would look back on these and cringe because it is from a dark time in their life. I myself read this and it comes over like you are trying to talk to a child and groom them back to happy times, to forget the bad times. No. That isn’t how you help people heal. You need to accept responsibility and give a simple apology. And one which doesn’t use self excuses. Yes, you like many have gone through mental issues, I have too. Its a shame to hear you did and working through it, but it can’t be the reason to lean on. You just admit what you did was wrong and direct it to the victims.

Doug Shiro labeled the apology “creepy”:

Dude this is nothing but creepy. Please. Sit back and read over this again. Realize that those “good times” were not normal. They were between a grown dude and some young girls with absolutely no relation nor family-based friendship with you and that is so terribly terribly wrong.

Even if you had shared nothing but normal positive behavior, those girls would still look back and cringe at the fact that they were young girls hanging out with a man give or take twice their age, and if I’ve understood correctly, they did it because they respected your work as an artist and wanted to get good jobs in art. Not because they wanted to be your friend and certainly not your lover. Even if their minds couldn’t figure it out any better at the ages they were back then.

The apology also unleashed negative reactions across Twitter:

Kricfalusi’s apology can be read in its entirety below:

Latest News from Cartoon Brew