Matt Bruenig, whose family is expecting its first child, set a $10,000 goal on GoFundMe, but had far surpassed that goal by Saturday morning, receiving $24,804 in donations.
Bruenig, a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) who is known for his confrontational approach on Twitter, was fired by the progressive think tank Demos after tweeting at The Nation's Joan Walsh and Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress. Bruenig got into a back-and-forth with Walsh over young people supporting Sanders and then accused Tanden, who is close to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, of supporting welfare reform. While Tanden did work in the administration of Bill Clinton after he signed welfare reform into law, both Gawker and Mother Jones note that there's no evidence she actually supported it.
Bruenig was condemned for calling Walsh and Tanden "geriatrics," which appears to be a reference to a previous feud in which Bruenig accused Walsh of ageism after she referred to a young Sanders backer as "barely shaving."
Demos apologized for Bruenig's tweets and later released a statement saying Bruenig would no longer work for them.
"After our tweet apologizing for Matt’s personal attacks including the term 'scumbag,' we received emails from multiple individuals who made it clear that we were not aware of the extent to which Matt has been at the center of controversies surrounding online harassment of people with whom he disagrees," Demos wrote. "After multiple conversations, Matt Bruenig and Demos have agreed to disagree on the value of the attack mode on Twitter. We part ways on the effectiveness of these kinds of personalized, online fights and so we are parting ways as colleagues today."
Bruenig told The Huffington Post that he received dozens of emails offering to send money and suggesting he set up a GoFundMe page.
"I was reluctant at first, but we are about to have a kid and will have some non-trivial costs associated with leave and childcare. I also found the support very moving. So I decided to go ahead," he said in an email.
"I thought maybe I'd get a couple thousand from friends and dedicated comrades. I did not expect this. In 3 hours, it raced up to a little under $25,000. I closed it off because it was getting ridiculous. I just wanted to fill the income gap, not get rich off of the whole thing."
The page is now closed for donations, and Bruenig has added a note encouraging would-be donors to give to Eric Harwood, a man he wrote about who is fighting to get disability insurance.
Tanden has been accused on Twitter of working to get Bruenig fired, but she said she never considered doing so and wishes him well despite the incident.
"I didn't talk to anyone at Demos before they took these actions or anyone connected to Demos. And I haven't spoken to anyone else related to his employment anywhere else," she told HuffPost in an email. "I wish Mr. Bruenig well and I would always welcome an actually substantive conversation on poverty policy with him. I certainly hope he can move on successfully and I hope we can all go back to robust substantive discussion of issues."
Ryan Grim contributed reporting.
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