Staples Grad’s Taunts Spark Viral Reaction

As hundreds of pro-choice advocates rallied in Westport on Sunday, a similar event took place at the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in lower Manhattan.

A small group of anti-abortion advocates stood on the cathedral steps. A video of one member shouting at the pro-choice marchers quickly went viral.

“I am the people. The people have decided. The court has decided. You lose,” he says with a smirk.

“You have no choice. Not your body, not your choice. Your body is mine, and you’re having my baby.” He quickly adds: “Joke.”

The video went viral, with millions of views. Pro-choice advocates were outraged. Far right Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar called the man a “hero.”

He wore Fire Department of New York logos on his jacket. Soon, “FDNY” trended on Twitter. The actual FDNY issued a statement, saying he was not a member of the department, and his comments did not represent its values.

Around the country, media outlets tried to identify him.

Members of Staples High School’s Class of 2020 knew exactly who he is. Texts and messages flew back and forth. “Did you see Max?” they asked each other.

“Max” is Max Bernegger — their classmate.

This is not his first political activism.

In October 2020 he was arrested for breach of peace. He and a juvenile had posted flyers with messages like “Kill Trump. Fight the White. This Town Is Ours” and “Kill Trump. And Once We Win We’re Coming to Westport” on Church Lane.

They wanted Westporters to think the posters were the work of a radical left organization, and that outsiders would soon wreak havoc here.

Now, in another political battle, he’s wreaked his own.

34 responses to “Staples Grad’s Taunts Spark Viral Reaction

  1. Well, maybe thoughtless and juvenile but, luckily in America, for a little while longer, free speech swings both ways. Be careful what you want to silence..next time it’s gonna’ be you.

  2. He has the right to be an incredible A-hole.

    His deceptive tactics in Westport are despicable.

  3. His parents must be mortified

    • I don’t know them so don’t misconstrue, but someone taught him these values, no?

      • Hallie Picarello

        I have no idea where he got his personal values from, but it wasn’t his parents. I know the family personally.

  4. He should have been charged with a hate crime, but as a Staples Young Republican with a Police Athletic League background, he somehow avoided the more serious charge. I’m still trying to figure it out.

    • Seriously. If it was the kind of person they were pretending to be (person of color, radical left), it would have been treated far more seriously.

      Instead, since it was a rich, white kid with conservative ‘values’ it was treated like a youthful indiscretion. And here we are.

      • Couldn’t agree more. After his hateful attempt to foment anger and blame against those who have different opinions, I remember hearing all the (adult) talk about how he was a “good kid” just needing to be taught how to express his frustrations productively. I also remember his peers having a different opinion, having seen him and his disrespect for others in action years. This latest chapter is sad and discouraging, but not unpredictable. Westport has lofty ideals, but does not always hold itself accountable to them, especially if it might make people uncomfortable.

    • Jennie Pickering

      Max is kidding right? This can’t be serious “it’s not your body”….whuuuuuuuuut

  5. Robin Weinberg

    Dan, Words Matter. Please do not call what this man did “Political Activism.”

  6. Kathleen Fazio

    I am thinking that rather than being a horrible human, this young man may be very unwell and needs some help. Attacks will not help him but maybe in this community of truly compassionate people, there is help.

  7. Robin Weinberg

    Dan, Words Matter. Please do not call what this man did “Political Activism.”

  8. Speak the truth Max!

  9. Adam Armstrong

    If I see this punk in NYC he’s going to be missing some teeth.

  10. Sylvia Robinson Corrigan

    Compassion is right. The young man was recently confirmed in the Catholic Church. He is struggling to defend what he feels is the right to life. Not fair to place this beside his earlier actions. He was defending the church, Old St. Patrick’s, where he stood. Vitriol and virtual stoning is not helpful.

    • Robert M Gerrity

      Sorry, he has NO right to my compassion as a “recently confirmed…Catholic….” The old, relevant phrase, is “he should know better.” Who was his spiritual advisor — a Jesuit or an Opus Dei priest? Acting in a violently verbal way is DEFENDING a church building? The compassion/understanding needs to flow the other way, from him to the people he disagrees with.

      And it is ABSOLUTELY fair to put this action up with his prior actions. They are of a piece, demonstrating who he is. In both instances, this man-child resorted to, in your own words, “vitriol and virtual stoning” by creating those posters (WORDS he had to say aloud before he wrote them) and by creating that invective against the pro-choice protestors (WORDS he actually said aloud and which are now recorded for future reference). He is a narcissistic, misogynistic authoritarian whose actions are moving towards actual violence given the way his behavior is scaling. If it walks like a duck (posters), talks like a duck (“you are having my baby”), and has feathers like a duck (FDNY uniform appropriated to give his wounded ego some social status) —

      THEN IT IS A DUCK.

      When they tell you who they are (Hitler/Goebel, Putin/Trump, McConnell/McCarthy), BELIEVE THEM as that is who they are — and what they want to do.

      “Buckle up. It is going to be a bumpy ride,” because a house divided can not stand.

  11. Jeez, some of these comments. Jake implores a guy who was arrested for publicly posting flagrant falsehoods to “speak the truth,” and Sylvia says “vitriol and virtual stoning” aren’t helpful in dealing with someone who has just done exactly that to women in the most un-Christian way possible. I agree with Steve Schmidt: We can’t let the trolls and other miscreants spout their nonsense without calling them out.

  12. Jack J Whittle

    interesting post from Dan, identifying someone for saying things that some people don’t agree with. I’m not sure I agree with what this man says, certainly there are those posting here that do not agree.

    But just as sure as those who line up on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge shouting their views on the right to pursue an abortion throughout pregnancy, and their disagreement with the leaked Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade have an absolute right to do so, so does does this man have the same right to say whatever it is he is saying. That’s how it works . . . in this country at least.

    • He can say it, but everyone else, including Dan Woog, has the right to react to it as they see fit.

      I would react as I see fit, but I don’t want my comment removed for offensive language.

    • Jack, I think posting a sign to assassinate the President doesn’t in any way involve free speech! I went on the link and read the former posting about him, and I even made a comment there a while back. My gut feeling is he has some issues and if I were his parents, I wouldn’t be too happy about both postings involving his behavior. How about if I give him a challenge? Do something extremely kind and thoughtful and let Dan post a story about it. Make it outrageously significant that’ll catch the eye of the entire town! Go for it. Make yourself a hero!

    • Also, was anyone actually calling for abortion to be available “throughout pregnancy”? Most people who support Roe v Wade are informed enough to know, it does not allow for that. Beyond the first trimester there are restrictions, especially in the third trimester. The R v W ruling was never the abortion “free-for-all” opponents have claimed it is.

  13. “Your body is mine, and you’re having my baby.” Does that sound like free speech, or does it just sound super-rapey?

  14. Christine Barth

    His smirking attitude made everything he said even worse.

  15. Dave Donnelly

    I have known the Bernegger family (Max’s father, his aunts, his grandparents) for over 40 years. They are inherently a very kind and caring, generous and loving family. I would give any of them the shirt off my back, a place to rest their heads and/or money if they needed it (which they don’t).

    Growing up in Westport, I recall that THERE WERE MANY “kids” like Max (me among them) who were searching for purpose, trying to figure out exactly where we fit in and struggling to comprehend what lay ahead. Was this daunting ? Heck yeah. Insurmountable ? Definitely not.

    Is Max Bernegger a bad apple ? I don’t believe so. Has he behaved poorly and said some really foolish things ? Yup. Young people tend to do that.

    I have faith that he will course correct. Why ? Goodness is part of the Bernegger DNA. Take it from someone who knows this family very well.

    • What part of “goodness” is he expressing when posting vitriolic flyers intended to stir up racial strife?

      He didn’t even have the nerve to stand up for his (racist) beliefs, preferring to pretend to post these things as a person of color to make people different from (rich, white) him targets of hate.

      The nasty and smug screaming in the city is anything but “good.”

      ‘Goodness” would have been to learn from his mistake and tried to better himself. This guy seems to have simply doubled down on intolerance. Racism and sexism isn’t “goodness.” He’s the definition of the bad apple.

      If his family represents “goodness” maybe they will make a statement as to their feeling about the kinds of things on which their scion has commented, in order to clarify whether or not his publicly stated views reflect their views?

  16. Small time punk. Arrogant enough to believe he is important and thanks to social media he actually becomes mildly important for a moment or two. Bottom line, this fellow has a lot to learn. Suggestion: Start with some humility.

  17. Dave Donnelly

    Chris:

    You ever do or say anything really stupid when you were young ? I’m going to assume you have and maybe have regrets.

    I don’t excuse Max from his behavior. Not one bit. I am hopeful he will realize that he exhibited exceptionally bad judgement with this (hopefully last) stunt.

    I was a troubled kid growing up in this town. Too much fighting, too much anger (about what I don’t really know) and didn’t want to hear from anyone about anything. In general, I was a jerk and a real a**hole.

    What turned me around at the age of 26 or 27 was continued love and support from my incredible (divorced) parents and my sisters and brothers.

    That’s what I meant by “goodness”. And if you can’t understand that, then I guess glass houses really do exist.

    • I don’t think we should confuse “stupid” with “hateful” or “criminal.” I’ve done plenty of stupid but harmless things over the years.

      But, no, I’ve never posted racist flyers around Westport. No, I’ve never screamed at people holding a peaceful protest. Not even when I was young. Glass houses? How about “false equivalences?”

      Some things are harmless and other things are not. Some things are inadvertent, while others are intentional acts.

      If a young adult can post racist flyers without any meaningful consequences, no lessons are learned except, “if you are a rich, entitled, white kid, you can do what you want without worrying about the consequences.”

      Think about the arc of the flyer incident. When it immediately was reported, people (who apparently share Max’s politics) expressed righteous anger about the supposed leftist agitators who were coming to get them. (Let’s be honest – one had to be a complete moron to think that was what was happening.) But then when we found out what actually happened, it was suddenly a youthful indiscretion. I call bs on the hypocrisy.

      I hope the kid gets his act together, but he deserves no benefit of the doubt at this point. As the saying goes, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

  18. How about my challenge? Turn this around! You can do it.

  19. Michelle Hauser

    It’s good to have friends who have your back, especially ones willing to sign their names in public to attest to your “good character”. Max had a lifelong Westport resident come to his defense during his last incident and he is once again being helped in this way. Good for him for having good friends. Dave-you say you aren’t defending Max, but your words seem to taunt those who speak out against his hate. His actions show a troubled, angry, hate filled boy with no boundaries or sense of responsibility. The multiple pulbished videos show he was in New York to stir up trouble. The two events discussed in this post aren’t the only incidents attributed to Max-he was also allegedly the person behind last year’s destruction during Pride Week on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge. To go over his targets: African Americans/ BLM, the LGBTQIA community, and women. Is he done? I ask: is Max getting help? Is he in therapy? Is he even in school? You want people, Dave, to show understanding but is the person you’re defending getting the support he needs to heal? To process the compassion and understanding others are demanding for him and then show that same compassion and understanding for others? Is his family doing this for him? You are right-what Max did was really stupid. I too hope this is the end of it.

  20. Margaret Beeler

    I had to write in this morning because this was haunting me all night. Can we just please remember – this is a KID. I have 2 kids who are similar in age. They are not fully formed yet. They are still finding themselves. They make mistakes. Max may not even consider it a mistake – yet – but it was certainly an event, a public and political one. And yes – this town can be tough. Full of brilliance and competition. But it is also filled with kind, loving and wonderful people. Let’s show him why we (those of us who are) are pro-choice – because we care about people. We care about our community. We care about him. How about reaching out with love and support and helpful guidance? I know someone who I believe would be a useful resource for Max, and I’ll find my way to his family to offer them the information. I could be wrong, and it could be unwelcome advice, but I am standing by my values as I know I’m coming from a place of compassion and empathy.

  21. Hate crimes in Westport get a free pass. As long as you’re white and to the right, you skate. Congratulations to our local enablers.

Leave a Reply