The satire site The Onion deleted an Oscar night tweet that jokingly called Quvenzhané Wallis, the 9-year-old star of "Beasts of the Southern Wild," a crude word for female genitalia.
The joke outraged many readers and shocked executives at Fox Searchlight, the studio behind her Oscar-nominated film. The furor was immediate enough that The Onion, which thrives on borderline jokes, took the unusual step of deleting the tweet within about an hour.
"Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhane Wallis is kind of a c---, right?" the Onion tweeted.
The joke, of course, was the idea that anyone would say anything offensive about the sweet-faced Wallis. But the site was immediately accused of racism and sexism, as well as trying to hide behind irony.
The Onion did not immediately respond to requests from TheWrap for comment.
One distressed Fox Searchlight executive showed the tweet to a reporter at the post-show Governor's Ball, wondering who would write something so offensive. But Fox Searchlight declined to comment on the record.
Wallis, also attending the party, appeared unaware of the tweet as she twirled solo on the dance floor to Frank Sinatra tunes, sung by Michael Feinstein.
Wendell Pierce, an actor who starred in "The Wire" and "Treme," urged the Onion to name the writer behind the joke.
"Identify the writer," he wrote in a tweet. "Let him defend that abhorrent verbal attack of a child. You call it humor, I call it horrendous."