On 5 June Bergdorf revealed she was the first ever LGBTQ+ campaigner for Childline, which is run by the NSPCC. It coincided with the start of Pride Month:
Proud to be announced as @childline's first LGBT+ campaigner. The wellbeing and empowerment of LGBTQIA+ identifying children and young people is something that I have been passionate about throughout my career as an activist. pic.twitter.com/baSnTo7S7X— MUNROE ???? (@MunroeBergdorf) June 5, 2019
Trouble started after Times journalist Janice Turner criticised Bergdorf's appointment, tweeting on 6 June that it was an "astonishing decision" to hire "a porn model as a Childline ambassador".
On 7 June, the charity - whose trustees, the BBC reported, had received "transphobic letters" - released a cold statement seemingly aimed more at placating anti-trans campaigners than supporting the LGBTQ+ cause or Bergdorf herself.
The statement said "at no point" was Bergdorf an ambassador for the charity and "she will have no ongoing relationship with Childline or the NSPCC".
The statement continued: "The NSPCC does not support, endorse or authorise any personal statements made by any celebrities who contribute to campaigns. Childline is available to children without condition to provide support whatever the nature of their concerns."
Bergdorf responded on social media the next day.
I'm so sad to be writing this. Yesterday a Times journalist @victoriapeckham decided to launch a transphobic hate campaign on Twitter, calling me a 'Porn Model' & suggesting that if @NSPCC didn't stop working with me they would be urging people to cancel their direct debits. pic.twitter.com/6kXT3cBMLw— MUNROE ???? (@MunroeBergdorf) June 8, 2019
The model, who denied she had ever taken part in pornography, turned on the NSPCC, saying that the charity had "decided to sever ties without speaking to me, delete all the content we made together and back-peddle [sic] without giving any reason why".
The subsequent backlash against the NSPCC was huge, and Bergdorf gave interviews explaining the impact of the decision and criticising how the charity handled the case:
The internal backlash was also substantial, with 148 NSPCC employees signing a letter condemning the move.
On 12 June the NSPCC issued a statement from chief executive Peter Wanless in which he "unreservedly apologised" for the charity's actions:
We’re sorry for the hurt that has been caused by recent events with @MunroeBergdorf. We’re here for every child, including the LGBTQ+ community, who can contact Childline any time. Read @PeterWanless’s full statement https://t.co/DIFtxMgm8U pic.twitter.com/T2vK0cAkOK— NSPCC (@NSPCC) June 12, 2019
But the damage was done.
It's true that Bergdorf has caused controversy in the past. In 2017 she was sacked by L'Oreal for a Facebook post – later deleted – in which it was claimed she said that all white people are racist, following the killing of an anti-racism demonstrator in the US.
In this instance, however, the NSPCC backed the wrong side, seemingly confusing certain vociferous campaigners with the wider public mood, and in its efforts to take decisive action appeared uncaring.
For a charity concerned about the welfare of children, it's a bad situation indeed.