NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

February 3, 2014

'Mama Bear' takes up fight against social media comments

(Continued)

Once the interview was over, the Mitchells were given quite a surprise: an impromptu assembly of students and teachers in the auditorium, all wearing green to show their support.

“It was so overwhelming,” said Mitchell. “The staff were in green, the students were in green and they were all chanting ‘Sean’ when they came in.”

Mitchell also said that plenty of students told Sean they would eat a hot dog without a bun with him anytime.

“He knows he didn’t do anything wrong and never to change,” Mitchell said of her son. “To be himself.”

The Boston Barstool website has been described as focusing on “sports/smut.” It caters particularly to young men, with whom it has a following numbering in the hundreds of thousands. It’s also proved lucrative to Portnoy, a 1995 graduate of University of Michigan. He is reported to be worth in excess of $2 million.

Portnoy is no stranger to controversy. In 2011, he posted a photo showing New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s nude toddler son on a beach. The photo caused an uproar, and Portnoy finally removed it from his site after state police visited him. They were investigating whether the photo violated child exploitation laws.

Portnoy said that he and his team have been looking into better ways to police their comment sections but at the moment, it is a fact of life in the Internet age.

“I hate our comment section,” admitted Portnoy. “They are the lowest of the low. But that’s an internet thing. Go look on YouTube, go look on Boston.com, go look on ESPN. Look anywhere, they are out of control. It’s like fighting the tides coming in.”

While Portnoy remained contrite about the incident, he refused to apologize for the site itself.

“I don’t apologize for Barstool,” said Portnoy. “We don’t apologize for what we do, the brand of humor that we do. None of that I apologize for. I wish that the photo of that kid hadn’t been posted because of the trauma that it caused to the kid. He sounds like a good kid.”

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