A Tacoma woman has caused a social media firestorm after telling the mother of a disabled child to put her girl “out of her misery.”
The controversy has drawn the attention of a celebrity, exposed women who share the same name to harassment and gotten the poster fired from one job.
The events unfolded Wednesday when Natalie Weaver of Cornelius, North Carolina, posted a Christmas photo of her family on Facebook. It included her 10-year-old daughter Sophia, who has facial, hand and feet deformities.
“We are grateful for another beautiful holiday season with Sophia,” Weaver wrote. “She continues to overcome & fight every daily challenge & difficulty she faces. She does it with so much sweetness, laughter and positivity. She is the definition of strength. I’m so proud of my girl.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News Tribune
Weaver is a well-known advocate for children with disabilities. CNN profiled her in February. She is the founder of Sophia’s Voice, a non-profit that helps people with chronic illnesses and disabilities get their medical needs met.
Sophia has Rett syndrome, a neurological disorder that affects one in 10,000 female births. It can affect brain function and other systems.
Kelsey Monahan Saum responded shortly after.
“If you TRULY loved her, you’d go the selfless & empathetic route by putting her out of her misery,” Saum wrote on Facebook.
In her message, Saum called Weaver a “Sick & twisted self righteous Christian.”
She ended it with: “I hope you got sterilized so you can’t produce anymore defective offspring.”
In an interview with The News Tribune, Weaver said, “I was shocked at how vile and hateful these remarks were. Once I got home from picking my kids up from school, I went to the bathroom so my kids wouldn’t see me cry.”
Saum was contacted by The News Tribune on Wednesday and confirmed she had written the post but declined an interview.
She said she runs a property management business that uses the address of a Tacoma locksmith shop. An employee at the shop told a News Tribune reporter he wasn’t familiar with Saum or her business.
Saum was listed on her LinkedIn page as a seller of Young Living Essential Oils, an aromatic plant extracts company. The company’s president, Jared Turner, tweeted Wednesday that he had terminated her account.
“This is unacceptable and not representative of our values,” Turner said. “It’s so painful to see these vile messages.”
After Saum’s Facebook response, Weaver went to Twitter to bring it to her followers’ attention.
“I don’t have the influence to expose and change this on my own,” Weaver wrote. “These people need to be held accountable for their hate!”
Actress Alyssa Milano, who said she is a friend of Weaver’s and who has more than 3 million followers on Twitter, retweeted Saum’s post with her own response.
“If it’s in your nature to lash out at Natalie because her child looks different, you are part of the problem,” said Milano, a liberal activist who earlier this week posted a Dr. Seuss spoof criticizing federal Department of Education rules concerning campus sexual assaults.
The outrage over Saum’s post was voluminous, resulting in thousands of Facebook and Twitter comments and retweets.
“It breaks my heart that this woman’s soul is so ugly, so tainted with cruelty and cynicism,” Deborah Cadabra wrote on Facebook. “And it makes me angry. How dare anyone who doesn’t know the love and sacrifices and struggles it takes to raise a child be so darn judgmental?”
“She should hide,” wrote Joshua Anthony on Facebook. “The dumbass in me wants to track her down and make her defective.”
As the backlash grew Wednesday, Saum deleted her social media accounts.
The backlash affected people who shared Saum’s name.
“From some woman who has the same name as me said something rude about a child I am getting bashed, hate messages, etc. STOP saying it’s me when it’s NOT,” tweeted a different Kelsey Saum from Ohio.
This is not the first time Weaver has had to deal with hateful comments about her daughter, who requires around-the-clock care. Last year, a Twitter user used a photo of Sophia in a tweet advocating for coerced abortion.
“Next to the death threats, this was in the top five of the most offensive comments I’ve received,” Weaver told The News Tribune.
Court records from Washington and Oregon referring to Saum reveal a series of domestic-violence incidents involving Saum, who is identified as Kelsey L. Monahan, 27. At times she is identified as the instigator. In other examples, she claims to be the victim of harassment.
Records from Oregon courts show she was convicted in June 2017 of recklessly endangering another person.
Pierce County court records reveal a series of domestic-violence allegations in February and March 2017 involving Monahan and a boyfriend.
The first record, a protection-order petition, alleged that Monahan threatened her boyfriend and his adult children when he tried to end their relationship. The matter concluded in March 2017, when the boyfriend and his sons filed a series of declarations describing Monahan’s behavior, including copies of text messages she had sent to the boyfriend and his lawyer.
“Tell your lying coward of a client that someone will be at the shop to retrieve Kelsey’s personal belongings,” one text message to the lawyer said.
The lawyer replied, urging Monahan to work through the process with intermediaries, as agreed previously.
“I don’t care what you want, you fat old (expletive),” Monahan replied via text.
Weaver said she makes public messages like the one Saum posted on Facebook so that change can occur in society.
“I would like for the public to see the kind of hate that profoundly disabled children and children with facial deformities receive,” Weaver said. “I want everyone to see the beauty and value in every soul no matter what their abilities are.
“Every single human being deserves love, dignity and respect.”