The esteemed film critic and prolific tweeter criticized five kids who wore American flag T-shirts and bandannas to school on Cinco de Mayo. The Tea Party beast was awakened, and mocked his recent cancer and the disfigurement it left him.

Five kids were sent home from a California high school on Wednesday for what seems like a fairly open-and-shut case of trying to start trouble. Of course, to the nutbag right, this was not the case at all and the whole thing was anti-American. Last week Ebert sent this message in response to the story:

@ebertchicago Kids who wear American Flag t-shirts on 5 May should have to share a lunchroom table with those who wear a hammer and sickle on 4 July.

According to an Ebert blog post today, it was met with predictable outrage from people with predictable Twitter handles:

@lonestarag05: Its the USA not Mexico. They are allowed to be proud of their country. I wonder sometimes why you even stay here.

Ebert has defended the Tweet very eloquently here. He points out, using humor, reason, logic and fact that the kids had done something analogous to wearing a Union Jack on St. Patrick's day in Boston, or a Confederate flag to the Bud Biliken parade in Chicago — they were disrespecting the heritage of a community busy celebrating that heritage. Like, for example, "wearing the hammer and sickle on the Fourth of July." He adds in the blog post that those who defended the kids might try that "at a NASCAR race, for example."

Of course humor, reason, logic and fact are utterly alien to the Tea Party and their enraged acolytes. And they know no sense of proportion. Ebert, as this excellent Esquire profile outlines, has suffered through repeated bouts of cancer, and operations to remove that cancer, that have left him without a lower jaw. The picture above is the one that Esquire ran with that profile.

Knowing what we know about the Tea Party it shouldn't have been surprising when Ebert tweeted this last night. But it was sad.

UPDATE: Commenter Atlasfugged points out that these are probably among the Tweets that Ebert was responding to. MediaMatters have more. The man behind this particular batch is called Caleb Howe. He blogs at The picture from his Twitter profile is inset.

Howe, of course, is perfectly entitled to say what he likes. We're sure Ebert would be the first to defend his right to free speech. But we've emailed Howe to ask for a comment, and whether he stands by his tweets as a proportionate response. As he cites Redstate as his official website on the Twitter feed, we've also emailed them to ask if they stand behind their contributor. Any responses will be posted here.