By James Hibberd
November 26, 2018 at 09:26 AM EST
Barry King/Getty Images

Disney screenwriter Terry Rossio apologized over the weekend for a Thanksgiving Day tweet that provoked online outrage by using the N-word.

The Aladdin and Pirates of the Caribbean franchise scribe is against vaccinating children and said the racial epithet is like using the term “anti-vax.”

“In a recent Twitter post, arguing against stereotyping and hate speech, I referenced the ‘n-word’ (the actual word) as an example of what not to do,” he wrote. “That was a mistake. I am sorry. I now understand that the word has no place in any conversation, ever. You can’t make a point against hate speech and reference actual words of hate speech. That was insensitive and ignorant. I am immediately deleting the post to remove that toxic word from the internet, where it should never appear in any context. As the mistake was mine alone, this apology is also mine alone. A deeply felt apology to all. I continue to stand against hate speech and dehumanizing labels in any form.”

Originally, Rossio posted in a reply to reader, now deleted: “My heart goes out to all the parents of vaccine damaged children, who have to not only endure the sadness of their loss, but also the vitriol of ill-informed and insensitive people (such as those here). Anti-Vax is equivalent to calling someone a [N-word] and makes as little sense.”

Rossio continued to defend the tweet for awhile before reversing his stance and deleting it. One of the most widely circulated comebacks was: “God, this is such a good point. I remember how American founders and citizens enslaved vaccine skeptics for decades. And then, even after freeing them, the government enshrined laws to marginalize vaccine deniers and to deny them wealth and opportunity. That’s just history.”

According to the Center for Disease Control, there is no link between autism and vaccines and “to date, the studies continue to show that vaccines are not associated with ASD.” A 2017 outbreak of measles and a 2018 outbreak of chickenpox helped refocus the attention on the anti-vaccination movement.

In 2016, Rossio acquired the film rights to Callous Disregard: Autism and Vaccines — The Truth Behind a Tragedy, a book by Vaxxed director Andrew Wakefield about his 1998 paper that asserted a link between autism and vaccines for the measles, mumps, and rubella. The study was retracted after Wakefield was accused of professional misconduct and falsifying information. His medical license was subsequently revoked.

The Walt Disney Company fired director James Gunn from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 over decade-old tweets and Marvel apparently parted ways with comic book writer Chuck Wendig over his remarks on social media, but it’s unclear if any action will be taken against Rossio for using the N-word in his tweet.

Reps for Disney, Warner Bros., and Rossio’s WME agency did not respond to EW’s request for comment.

Nick Romano contributed to this report.