Matt Bruenig found himself out of a job after the liberal blogger attacked a Hillary Clinton ally during a Twitter exchange with two other writers, but now supporters of Bernie Sanders are rallying to his aid.
Bruenig, who covers economics and politics for the liberal outlet Demos, responded to The Nation writer Joan Walsh on a story she wrote entitled, “Bernie Sanders is hurting himself by playing the victim,” Politico noted. He called out Walsh for her apparent disdain of young voters, which he called “disgusting.”
Matt Bruenig had often been critical of Hillary Clinton in his writings, especially the support she and Bill Clinton showed of welfare reform in the 1990s. So, when Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, joined in the Twitter discussion between Bruenig and Walsh, Bruenig focused on Tanden’s role in the matter.
Bruenig claimed that Tanden supported welfare reform, writing, “Scumbag Neera uses welfare when she needs it then takes away from others when they need it. Disgusting.”
— Senator Al Giordano (@AlGiordano) May 21, 2016
It was at this point that Demos stepped in, distancing itself from Matt Bruenig and apologizing for his words. The think tank posted a long note on its website, saying Bruenig’s actions had “fallen far below the standards that Demos seeks to uphold in our public discourse.”
“Those who represent our organization in public are often confronted with objectionable arguments, with statements that offend our values, and even with ad hominem attacks – but nevertheless, we take pains to ensure that our voice is one that consistently elevates the debate. To have the democracy we want, the public square needs to be a place where people want to be.
“We know that this aspiration is far from reality. There is now a currency to engaging in personal vitriol on social media, particularly on political Twitter. Some see this as the normal combat of politics; we see it as corrosive and unnecessary to advancing moral arguments and better policy agendas.”
Demos also noted that, after apologizing for Matt Bruenig’s use of the word scumbag, many other people came forward to detail other online harassment he made toward opponents.
Bruenig was subsequently fired, but fans rose to his aid. One supporter started a GoFundMe page called “The Bruenig Bailout” that raised more than $24,000 in just a few hours before the page’s founders stopped accepting donations. Many of those who donated shared critical messages for Hillary Clinton and expressed disdain that voices against her are seemingly being muted online.
To many, the story of Bruenig’s firing represented the growing divide between supporters and critics of Hillary Clinton. As she moves ever-closer to locking up the Democratic nomination, there has been increasing controversy as supporters of Bernie Sanders rail against a process they say has been unfairly tilted in her behavior. Sanders himself has tried to position himself as the strongest candidate to take on Donald Trump in November, even pointing to polls that consistently show him ahead of Trump by a wider margin than Clinton.
Those messages have largely been ignored by mainstream media outlets, who are instead turning their attention on the likely Clinton-Trump race to come. This, in turn, has led some Sanders supporters to raise their voices higher in an attempt to get their message across and highlight both the controversies that surrounding Clinton and the process itself.
Many were split in Bruenig’s firing, however. Some believe it shows the efforts taken to silence Clinton’s critics, while others say he unfairly and unnecessarily attacked someone who has no connection to the welfare reform he was railing against.
Matt Bruenig speaks truth to power & is a fierce advocate for the poor. I'm disappointed that Demos caved to his well-to-do critics.
— Lee Fang (@lhfang) May 20, 2016
Tanden herself also lamented his firing.
— Keenan (@jktrotter) May 20, 2016
For his part, Matt Bruenig has not responded publicly to his firing.
[Image via GoFundMe]