Flop of the Month: NSPCC got it wrong over Munroe Bergdorf backlash

The NSPCC was roundly slated in June when it swiftly cut ties with transgender model and activist Munroe Bergdorf, a move seen by many as caving into anti-trans campaigners.

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:

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.

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:

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.

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