Grammy-winning singer and actress Bette Midler apologized Sunday for tweeting what critics called “transphobic” jokes about Bruce Jenner.
The mini-controversy began Saturday when Midler tweeted two jokes about Jenner, the former gold medal Olympian who transitioned into a woman last year and landed a reality television series.
“Now that @IAmCait has been cancelled, will she go back to being Bruce?” the 70-year-old singer wrote in a since-deleted tweet, referring to Jenner’s now-cancelled E! series I Am Cait.
She followed up with another since-deleted post: “Will Kris take him back? Do I smell a re-wedding?!”
Sensitive Twitter users were quick to brand Midler’s tweets “transphobic” and “pathetic.”
@BetteMidler This shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be transgender. Really disappointing.
— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) August 21, 2016
— Annie Wallace (@anniewallace) August 21, 2016
— maraleia (@maraleia) August 21, 2016
I hope @BetteMidler apologizes for her terrible transphobic comments and takes the time to educate herself on trans people's rights/dignity
— Her Majesty (@RoyalHoeliness) August 21, 2016
Midler apologized on Sunday, addressing her tweet to the LGBT advocacy organization Human Rights Campaign.
“Dear friends @HRC, whom I have always supported,” she wrote. “Sorry last tweet offended. An idle musing. I seem to have misread the temper of the times.”
DEAR FRIENDS @HRC, WHOM I HAVE ALWAYS SUPPORTED. SORRY LAST TWEET OFFENDED. AN IDLE MUSING. I SEEM TO HAVE MISREAD THE TEMPER OF THE TIMES.
— Bette Midler (@BetteMidler) August 21, 2016
Ironically, though perhaps unknown to her younger fans, Midler became a gay icon in the 1970s, when she frequently performed alongside Barry Manilow at the Continental Baths, a gay bathhouse in the basement of the Ansonia Hotel in New York.
The singer performed there so frequently and was so beloved in the then-underground LGBT community that she earned the nickname “Bathhouse Betty,” which later became the title of her ninth studio album.
Midler is the second star to apologize for social media musings this week. Pop star and The Voice coach Blake Shelton offered up a mea culpa after fans charged that tweets the singer wrote several years ago were homophobic and racist.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum