I'm not defending her. But I'm not defending any of the other nastiness either. If you have a mean comment, I'd encourage you to go delete it.
We're better than this. We're writers. We're readers. We're human beings. We have more in common than we have differences. Focus on those commonalities. Have you ever made a huge mistake? Ever done something you were ashamed of that had EVERYONE talking about you? Do you remember how awful that felt?
If so, think of how she must feel. Don't perpetuate this travesty. Do what you can to make it better. Not by going after the nasty commenters but by stopping the gossip. And then hope that the next time you make a huge mistake, people will be as forgiving of you as you were of Ms. Howett.
*edit: I'm not saying you can't discuss the situation publically. What I am saying is that you do so professionally and with the understanding that this is a person we're talking about. There's definitely a mob feel to some of the conversations going around. A "let's get her" mentality. That is SO WRONG.