Max Bernegger Firestorm Continues

A number of “06880” readers were appalled at the behavior of Max Bernegger, the 2020 Staples High School graduate who taunted pro-choice protestors from the steps of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral Sunday, while wearing a jacket bearing Fire Department of New York logos. The FDNY quickly noted that he is not a New York firefighter.

Meanwhile, a number of “06880” readers urged compassion for Bernegger, who was arrested in 2020 for posting flyers in Westport falsely implying that outside far-left agitators were coming to terrorize the town.

Readers reached out privately to me as well. Some said that Max’s parents — longtime Westporters — are wonderful people, pained by their son’s actions. Some urged compassion for a young man who made a mistake. Some said he was a young man trying to find his way. Some said he was troubled, and needs help.

I told someone with connections to the family that I would be glad to give Max a chance to tell his side on “06880.” I would also print a statement from the family. I have not heard back.

Today, as the video of Max continues to draw millions of views on social media, more videos have surfaced.

One shows him on the Stew Peters Show last night. He says his name is Chad McDowell, and claims that pr0-choice advocates were planning to attach St. Patrick’s Church “for Satan.”

He also may have changed his name on Facebook to Jacob A. Tate — a Black soldier killed in Afghanistan. Using that name, he posted on Tate’s mother’s page that her son deserved what he got. Those posts are now unavailable.

Meanwhile, Max is no stranger to protests. He was at this earlier event, as posted on Twitter:

Max shows no signs of repentance. In fact, he’s doubling down:


The posts above were recent. Those below are from March:


Someone who knows Max and his parents asked me to stop “piling on.”

I’m not piling on. The tagline of “06880” is “Where Westport meets the world.”

Max Bernegger — aka a New York firefighter, Chad McDowell, Jacob A. Tate, and perhaps other names — has made this Westport story into a national one.

67 responses to “Max Bernegger Firestorm Continues

  1. Tracy MacMath

    I will not have compassion for someone like that. He is an extremist.

  2. Laurie Goldberg

    It’s easy to hate on this guy. But it should be clear to everyone that he is a deeply troubled person with some serious mental problems. I was personally stalked by someone like this (many years ago) and I am reminded about what happens when a person is detached from reality. I feel very deeply for the parents and family of this person.

  3. Linda Montecalvo

    Obviously Max is a very sick individual. Not because of his choices but because of his repeated choices. I hope he gets help soon or something happens that takes him away for hurting anyone. Worlds are not empty gestures so I hope it’s not just a matter of time until hurts innocent people. Unfortunately something we see much too often. I’d like to know what his parents are doing about him. As parents I think they are mortally completed to help or otherwise act.

    • Deb Rosenfield

      Agree. He is of the incel culture (if anyone isn’t familiar with that term, please google it). And when he takes that step “too far,” which he most likely will unless he gets serious help right now, he’ll get top notch legal representation and a 20-part Netflix series where his family will tell the world he was such a good boy, he played quietly in the basement with his video games, it’s such a shock, we didn’t see it coming.

  4. Bobbi Essagof

    I happen to agree that we should stop giving Max any more attention as that’s clearly what he is seeking. Certainly he’s not going away by ignoring him but neither do we need to promote any of his nonsense. My apologies to his parents I’m sure they’re very nice people

  5. Mark Yurkiw

    Dan, I know how hard you try not to go down the “dark” roads. I see this post a responsible warning to the unaware. Who needs compassion now are his family, I can’t imagine their pain.

  6. Luke Garvey

    OK, I’m thinking serious mental illness, not just antisocial personality disorder.

  7. Ken Runkel

    Dan, I don’t consider your article as “promoting nonsense.” Alerting your readers to this mentally disturbed person we may find lurking in our town one day is in every resident’s interest. I completely agree with Mark Y. Let’s not stick our heads in the sand. Who knows what he’s capable of doing or attempting.


    Please get this young man some help,

  9. Susan Iseman

    To me, this is really concerning. Let’s hope he doesn’t have access to a firearm.

  10. Irene Kniffin

    I hope he doesn’t own a gun.

  11. Werner Liepolt

    Looks as if he’s building a Curriuclum Vitae for a political career ala Roger Stone, Stephen Miller, Donald Trump Jr.,.et. al.

  12. I think the larger point is being missed here. Yes, Max is a victim. But he is a victim of what the Republican party has been doing for years now.

    None of Max’s claims fall far outside the Republican “base”. He’s not different than those who marched on the capital on January 6 for a misguided cause.

    The Republicans own this young man and hundreds of thousands like him.

    Even you “good” Connecticut Republicans who just want fiscal “sanity” or some other illusion. You gave permission for escalating levels of insanity with your silence. Your silence provided continuing and escalting permission to be racist, misogynistic, homophobic and antisemitic without shame.

    And, so, Max was… and is.

    Yes, Republicans, you created this. You created this with screaming, bombastic politicians, with your “news” networks constantly preaching hate and division, and with your tacit permission, rapped up in the (r) you continue to put next to your name.

    I hope the tax savings were worth it. (If you’re even among the top % that saved any taxes…)

    A now you have the temerity to be aghast– or ask for compassion.

    Max as a young, misguided, victim gets all my empathy. You “adult” Republicans who allowed this ti happen and continue to affiliate with those who did, get none.

    • Evan Stein

      Maybe. Or maybe he’s just using their rhetoric as offensively as possible because it will attract more eyeballs.

    • Thanks, Mark, for that important comment..ALL Republicans, including our selectwomen, who do not publicly condemn Trump et al, are complicit in the acts of people like Mark and the Jan 6th traitors…

  13. Evan Stein

    Is there any evidence that he is mentally disturbed? Might he just be an attention seeker who has chosen the “any publicity is good publicity” route?

    • Paul Lowenstein

      I said the same thing re: attention.

      Not to harp on this nor trying to divert the conversation, but part of me wonders what would happen if I, a political nobody, started standing in crowded areas spewing the same crap he and the MAGAs do. Could I too have a platform and ultimately run for and win a congressional seat? Anyway, maybe I’m just venting…

  14. Aimee Garn

    The story of Max and his provocative actions is upsetting. I think 06880 has handled it appropriately. I hope that the people who can get help for Max, whether his parents or friends, do so now. His attacks have been verbal, but the menacing tone indicates that escalation is possible.

  15. Stacy Prince

    Dan, thank you for bringing this story to our attention. The Town of Westport had a chance to hold this young man accountable for a hate crime a few years ago and chose not to; it is important for us to know, and own up to, what we have wrought.

  16. Mike Posta

    He’s a performance artist / provocateur, and the constant reference to him on this blog is simply reinforcing his behavior and giving him the attention he seeks. You can tell from his demeanor / tone on the steps that he’s not serious and he’s simply trolling.

    This is not newsworthy. Please stop posting articles about that guy and feeding his vanity.

  17. Jack Backiel

    Max writes,” Women are incapable of rational decisions making.” Max, Don’t forget to show that to females you ask out on a date!

  18. Paul Lowenstein

    I am reframing my previous reply to a comment (4:08 pm). Although max needs and thrives on attention like so many others these days, as long as it relevant updates and news (you’re trustworthy, right? 😜), you should definitely continue posting about him.

    BTW, I came across this Twitter sleuth (real name, Michael McWhorter). His report does not shed any new light, but just an interesting find. He appears to be legitimate based on what I found on him.

    • debbieomalley

      Oh yes, Tizzy is the real deal. He sleuths out the people behaving badly and lets everyone know who they are.

      It seems all of this, whether attention-seeking, intentionally provocative, or just madness… would at the very least be cause for a psych evaluation? If someone knows where he is or how to find him, the most compassionate thing you might do for him now would be to put him on a 5150 hold.

      • Paul Lowenstein

        Glad to hear Debbie and thanks for the Tizzy confirmation! If you think max should get a 5150 hold/psych eval for those reasons, then there would be a big temporary gap in the Senate and House. Just playing…sort of, but not really…

  19. David Webster

    There are only 2 possibilities here. He’s a pro-level troll who is getting exactly what he wants in the form of massive amounts of negative attention, or he’s unwell. Either way, it’s appropriate to cover it on this blog. Especially, in my mind, because last Summer there were so many apologists talking about his “fine family” and how he’d “made a mistake and learned his lesson” and encouraged us all to “give him a break/cut him some slack”.

    Where are those people now? Care to walk any of that back?

    With regard to Max. Either he’s a troll who is in need of some serious interventions from his parents/friends, or he’s ill and is in need of mental healthcare from professionals.

    Before he ends up following in the footsteps of so many others like him and turning hateful words into hateful actions and really hurts somebody.

    • Chris Grimm

      Well said, David. His behavior is well beyond “youthful indiscretions.” Those “he just needs a little love and understanding while he grows up” defenders could have as easily said the same thing about 20-year-old Adam Lanza or 21-year-old Dylann Roof.

  20. Dave Donnelly

    I am happy to walk back my earlier comments about the “goodness” of his family being able to solve Max’s problems now that this additional information has been provided. Thank you, Dan, for your reporting here.

    Max – if you are reading this (as I suspect you are), get a grip and get some help before you do something even more repugnant that I guarantee you will regret later in life.

  21. Adam Vengrow

    Its a shame that people turn this story into a political blame on a party. The extreme of many religions, beliefs or parties usually create hatred. Blaming this kid on a nation of 100+ million republicans of which many are good people is as insane at blaming all democrats for a bad apple in their party. Its a shame that these outliers get listened to, unfortunately the perils off social media. Sorry to his parents, i believe they are good people. When we start generalizing one persons racism or hatred on an entire group with many good people than you become no better than the one doing the bad stuff.

    • Chris Grimm

      In case you slept through the four years of Trump, the Republican President and still effective leader of the party, he spent years spewing lies, hatred, racism, and misogyny. Oh, and he falsely claimed the election was rigged and tried to prevent the democracy from working. And the national leadership of that party has done everything possible to prevent any consequences for those actions.

      At this point, I wonder what is SO important to those “100+ million republicans” that they are willing to turn a blind eye to this behavior? I guess lower taxes are so sacrosanct that they don’t care if the democracy is undermined? “Many are good people…” yeah, if you tell me so.

    • No one is buying that this is a single bad apple among 100 million “good folks.” If you don’t like guilt by association you have the option to no longer be associated.

      That’s what I would do.

      The Republican party’s excess of hate, division, racism, misogyny and now authoritarianism is ruining children, like Max. They’ve been given permission to go with their worst instincts. They’ve been told they are part of a heroic cause, without the maturity to see that they’re simply pawns.

      We have the receipts. We have the receipts from January 6, 2021. We have the numerous videos of thousands and thousands of folks spewing hate-filled bile– just like Max. We’ve seen the constant drumbeat on Fox News, OAN, and we’ve seen Republican politicians, deflect and defend, over and over again.

      If you choose to call yourself a Republican in spite of this– in spite of Trump– in spite of Max– in spite of all that we see now, and over the past few years, you own this. Wear it.

      • Sherry Jonas

        Mark – extremely well said and I couldn’t agree more. It’s time for Republicans who have a soul to rise up against this slide into fascism and take back their party. Until we see rejection of this kind of appalling behavior (Max’s, Trump’s, etc.), we have every right to hold the entire Republican Party accountable.

    • “Good people” don’t support Trump and his type or Alito and his type…bad people win when those “good people” like you do not speak out.

  22. John Richers

    My hope would be that you not add to his media visibility. Don’t re-post his vitriol and don’t give him more media exposure.

  23. Jalna Jaeger

    He sounds like an attention grabbing jerk!
    No more about him please!

  24. Peter Mihalick

    This child ( that’s what he acts like) needs mental help NOW what he has said is disgraceful and his parents must be mortified . He is destined for a horrible future if he continues this moronic behavior. Don’t give him any more press!

  25. sephanie Bass

    this is not rhetoric. if he is under 18 and his parents do not get him to a locked facility they are culpable. Note that for the first time, parents were help responsible for not stopping their childs behavior.

    Attention grabbing??? This kid is sick. We gonna sit around and wait for him to hurt someone? If he is over 18, is there anything that can be done? This is a dangerous person.

  26. Richard Johnson

    Hate starts at home. Period.

  27. Werner Liepolt

    According to what looks to be an official announcement of the NYYRC (found on Twitter), he and other members of the Catholic Caucus of the NY Young Republicans’ Club were asked to not allow the “leftist horde” to disrupt the service by standing outside the church… Max may have been acting on behalf of organized Republicans and St Patrick’s Basilica.

  28. Bobbie Herman

    Has Max’s parents made any comments yet? Anywhere?

  29. John Richers

    Deprive him of of his media oxygen!
    Dan… Please don’t feed the demon’s need for attention.

  30. karen siegel

    From the sound of his postings,it seems to me that Max might be escalating and I hope the authorities are keeping an eye on his actions.

  31. Ciara Webster

    I don’t believe max’s parents are even if they wanted to in a position to publicly explain his behavior.
    As this situation escalates or has escalated on a bigger level I am sure they have been warned to say nothing.
    Let’s not place blame at their feet.
    Meanwhile maybe it’s time for the radical left and radical right to cop the hell on and meet somewhere in the middle.. if that does not happen there will be no joy for any of us going forward.
    To the right I say it’s our body our choice and none of your business.. to the left I say it’s my money and I pay enough already. Done with the charity
    I’m clearly in the middle.. fiscally on the right, socially on the left..
    yes we do exist. I believe we are a majority… let’s stop the stupidity and socialist ( always meant fiscal) behavior.
    Conveniently now to call someone socialist has lost its true meaning…
    Nobody wants socialism.
    It’s been fought and beaten
    Its archaic and wars have been fought over it.
    Enough !!!

  32. Peter Mihalick

    Totally agree the republicans have fueled these flames and ruined our communities. They don’t have no conception of right from wrong anymore and I was at one time a republican. With that said this Max is old enough to make good choices but he is obviously mentally ill. Nice Westport family?? If they were this person should have been seen by a mental health professionals long before this moronic behavior reared it’s ugly head!

  33. “Enlightening” comments, who knew we’d solve all of the countries problems if we got rid of Republicans and Jews.

    • Paul Lowenstein

      Ummm, what are your taking about?

    • Chris Grimm

      People who remain in the GOP are choosing to affiliate themselves with certain values. You can be a fiscal conservative without affiliating yourself with fascists and seditionists.

      This nation has spent the last 150 years expanding the rights and freedoms of all of its people. Now the GOP is trying to contract those rights and trying to restrict voting for those with whom they disagree.

      It is a very different thing from sex, race, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation.

    • Paul Lowenstein

      Why are you bringing up Jews? Where did that come from?

  34. The big question is does he own firearms? When his hate grows large enough, and he needs even more attention, what will stop someone like him from firing on a synagogue, a Planned Parenthood, a mosque, etc?

    • Russell Gontar

      He doesn’t have to own them to be a danger. If there are firearms in his house, locked up or not, those weapons pose a danger to the household and the community.

      If you want to want to honor your mother this month, get rid of all firearms from your house. I believe the local police department will take them off your hands or will direct you to who will, safely and legally.

  35. Dermot Meuchner

    Religion poisons everything.

  36. Peter Mihalick

    Good question.. why hasn’t our selectperson in Westport come out condemning the atrocities in Ukraine? I guess she prescribes to the republican play book. How sad for her and us!

  37. Janette Kinnally

    My son who attends Staples said when he read this – he is completely crazy and needs help. I have to say I concur. He does need help. It is very scary to see that on social media and I would like to hear what his parents think and if they support him in his radical thinking or if they feel he needs to get help too. Unfortunately he is an adult, so they cannot do anything legally, but I hope they are getting support or resources in place to help this young man before it gets worse. 🙏😢

  38. Stefan Schmidt

    All these previous comments blasting Republicans and religion as racist/extremists is saddening. Seems like the byproduct of social media and mainstream media of an extremely divided society. I don’t agree with the actions of this individual but I don’t agree with the comments by previous commenters. It’s a bad look.
    But thats Westport. Grew up in Greens Farms, graduated from Staples in 1998. Currently living in Bariloche, Argentina running my grandfather’s watch business. Life is good.

  39. Chris Grimm

    Have they identified the Buffalo shooter yet? Asking for a friend.

    • Russell Gontar

      Just your average 18 year old, angry male, white supremacist with access to weapons of mass destruction.

      90% of Americans favored closing the gun show loophole after sandy hook but congress sold out to the NRA and did NOTHING. Babies blown to bits but actually do something? Not a chance.

      And those AKs and 30 shot magazines? Congress declined to renew the assault weapons ban in 2004.

      I’m so sick of this movie.

      • Chris Grimm

        An angry, young, male, white supremacist? It seems so familiar. Weren’t we just reading about one of those, from Westport?

        • Russell Gontar

          You left off “and with access to weapons of mass destruction”.

          It is impossible to control human behavior, but we can control inanimate objects. And if we don’t’ this, will never end.

  40. Paul Lowenstein

    Dan, I understand if you remove my post if it is not directly contributing, but did anyone else receive email updates on Max’s/Chad McDowell’s (and Max maybe also trying to post as Jewberg) comments that were not approved? Sounds like the typical rant you would see by an adolescent, or a mal-developed adult’s brain. By “mal-developed”, I am not speaking in the traditional sense, but more like a brain that has been corrupted. I am sure there is a better way to phrase that.