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Houston Matters

When a Public Figure Dies, Is It OK to Bring Up Their Flaws?

There’s and old saying that we shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, but does that still apply in the age of social media?

A former serviceman salutes the casket during a memorial service for Sen. John McCain.


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Public figures are rarely perfect, and they often have problematic aspects to their legacy. But when a politician, celebrity, or famous athlete dies, when is it OK to bring up those blemishes?

There’s the old adage "don't speak ill of the dead," and, naturally, after important figures die there are usually a number of public tributes and commemorations celebrating that person's life.

But is there a proper way (and time) to honor someone — while still calling attention to certain issues attached to their legacy? And how does social medial play into all of this, now that just about every possible opinion can be made public on the Internet?

Houston Matters host Craig Cohen talks it over with University of Houston historian Nancy Beck Young and social media expert Eric Tung.