Friday, June 9, 2023

Olivia Julianna turns Matt Gaetz insult into abortion rights fundraiser



Days after being publicly insulted by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) on Twitter, Olivia Julianna, a 19-year-old abortion rights advocate, wrote him a tongue-in-cheek thank-you note on the platform.

“Dear Matt, Although your intentions were hateful, your public shaming of my appearance has done nothing but benefit me,” she wrote after his tweet about her spurred a load of harassment — as well as a flood of donations to her reproductive rights advocacy organization.

In just about a day, she’s helped raise approximately $115,000 for the nonprofit Gen Z for Change.

At a rally last weekend in Tampa, Gaetz had mocked abortion rights activists, calling them “disgusting” and overweight. Olivia Julianna, who uses her first name and middle name publicly because of privacy concerns, criticized the remarks on Twitter, noting the sex-trafficking allegations against Gaetz. In apparent retaliation, Gaetz then tweeted an image of her next to a news story that mentioned his comments from the rally.

That Gaetz tweet has been retweeted hundreds of times since and has triggered online attacks against the teen.

In response, Olivia Julianna announced a fundraising campaign on behalf of Gen Z for Change, a 500-person youth-led group that says it seeks to create tangible change on “issues that disproportionately affect young people” and supports abortion rights.

“This is absolutely the most insane amount of donations we have had thus far from individuals, especially in such a short frame of time,” she said in an email. “On a broader scale, this highlights the extreme power of social media mobilization, and it shows Republican politicians that their cheap attacks and political theater will no longer be tolerated.”

Gen Z is influencing the abortion debate — from TikTok

After his comments at the weekend rally at the conservative Turning Point USA Student Action Summit drew condemnation, Gaetz was asked by a reporter whether he believed that women who attended abortion rights rallies were “ugly and overweight,” and he doubled down on his comments. When asked what he had to say to people who were offended by those comments, he said: “Be offended.”

Gaetz is an ally of former president Donald Trump and was first elected to Congress in 2016, representing a district in the Florida Panhandle, an area that has voted heavily Republican in recent decades. He has expressed opposition to abortion and abortion rights advocates, and this month voted against two bills aimed at ensuring access to abortion. In May, Gaetz drew criticism for saying that those protesting the overturning of Roe v. Wade are “overeducated, under-loved millennials.”

“I would like Matt Gaetz to know he picked the wrong activist” to start a fight with, Olivia Julianna said.

The donations will be split among 50 abortion funds, with the goal of widening access to abortion services, birth control, contraceptives, among other reproductive health-care services, she said.

Olivia Julianna grew up as a queer Latina in a small conservative rural Texas community. “I’ve been mocked, ridiculed and harassed for most of my life. I will not tolerate that kind of behavior anymore,” she said.

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