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MS Society canned a 90-year-old volunteer over gender pronoun usage. Damage control efforts have not gone well.
Image composite: YouTube video, Libs of Tik Tok - Screenshots

MS Society canned a 90-year-old volunteer over gender pronoun usage. Damage control efforts have not gone well.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society recently canned a 90-year-old volunteer who worked for the organization for several decades all because she dared to question its conformity to radical social constructivist conventions.

The backlash online was swift and severe.

Various critics expressed doubts about making future donations to the organization. Others accused the organization — which locked comments on X and saw at least one employee deep-six her social media accounts — of ideological capture or ageism.

After doubling then tripling down on the ouster, the DEI-gripped organization finally came around to apologizing; however, that too has drawn the ire of critics who feel it was a similar "fail."

What's the background?

Fran Itkoff, 90, volunteered for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for roughly six decades, running the Long Beach Lakewood MS support group in California and aiding countless people who were afflicted with the same condition as her late husband.

Blaze News previously noted that Itkoff received the Volunteer Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008 for her committed service to others.

Chaya Raichik of Libs of TikTok raised the alarm that Itkoff was fired in January for apparently questioning the organization's practice of stating gender pronouns in its communications.

In the Jan. 19 termination letter obtained by Raichik, Kali Kumor, a pronoun-providing MS Society community engagement manager who recently deleted her LinkedIn profile, told Itkoff: "After a thorough review of our guidelines and standards, it has come to our attention that there has been a failure to abide by our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion guidelines during your time as a volunteer."

"Unfortunately, based on the situation, we have made the difficult decision to have you step down from your volunteer position, effective immediately," wrote Kumor.

"I was completely shocked as I read that," Itkoff told Libs of TikTok. "I couldn't believe that. I had to read it a couple of times to see if I'm getting what she said."

Itkoff's daughter Elle Hamilton said it was disappointing the MS Society would discriminate against her mother, particularly when the disease she has devoted her life to helping others fight does not similarly discriminate.

"Can happen to anybody," said Hamilton. "Anybody can get the disease and yet they're discriminating against her ... trying to help, just because she asked a question to explain what the pronouns were."

Raichik summarized the situation thusly: "So you're volunteering for 60 years. You gave your life to this organization. You honored your late husband. And ... they just take it away from you in a split second and throw you under the bus just because you did not understand why someone who is a woman needs to have the words she/her in their email signature."

Doubling then tripling down

Libs of TikTok obtained an internal Feb. 9 email from a pronoun-providing "Executive Vice President, General Counsel" concerning Itkoff's ouster. The letter suggested the decision to fire the nonagenarian was made with "thought and care"; that the organization wouldn't fire someone for asking questions about its inclusive practices; and that the MS Society expects that volunteers "uphold the values outlined in our Inclusion Policy."

In the face of significant backlash, the MS Society released a public statement on Feb. 15 saying, "We firmly believe that we best serve and support those living with MS by creating a space that welcomes all. This is especially true for self-help group leaders, who are responsible for leading meetings for people affected by MS to confide in and support one another."

The MS Society further claimed in the statement that its "staff acted with the best intentions" when canning Itkoff.

This statement was ratioed on X and prompted even more furor.

All-American, all-female swim star Riley Gaines, one among many critics who responded, wrote, "You cannot tout that you are an 'inclusive' organization when you lay off a 90yr lady who gave 60 yrs of support and service because she didn't understand the concept of preferred pronouns. Despicable. She's got a heckuva lawsuit on her hands and I hope she sees it through."

A DEI apology

The MS Society finally caved this week, noting in a statement Wednesday, "The National Multiple Sclerosis Society apologizes to our longtime, dedicated volunteer Fran Itkoff. Recently, we asked Fran to step down from her role as a group leader because of statements made that we viewed as not aligning with our recently implemented diversity, equity and inclusion policy."

Once again, the MS Society suggested that the ouster — apparently driven by Itkoff's failure to reflexively conform to the radical conventions of the day — was motivated by "the best intentions."

"We realize now that we made a mistake," continued the statement, "and we should have had more conversations with Fran before making this decision."

While acknowledging that "as an organization, we fell short," the MS Society continued painting Itkoff as an ignoramus in need of re-education.

"We should have spent more time with Fran to help her understand why, as an organization, we are dedicated to building a diverse and inclusive movement where everyone has equitable access to the care, connections, and support they need to live their best lives," said the statement.

Raichik responded, "Better late than never but this never should've happened to begin with! They put an old woman under unnecessary stress."

The apology rang hollow for various critics, including conservative commentator Megyn Kelly, who tweeted, "Another FAIL from the MS Society - they finally apologize to the 90-yr-old volunteer they fired for not understanding why she was forced to say her pronouns but now say what they shld've done was work w/her to explain how wonderful DEI is. WRONG AGAIN."

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