National MS Society Finally Apologizes to 90-Year-Old Volunteer Fired over Pronouns

Fran Itkoff
Facebook/Fran Itkoff

The National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society has finally backtracked on its treatment of a 90-year-old volunteer whom the organization fired for not understanding the forced use of gender pronouns.

Fran Itkoff, a 60-year veteran of the organization, lost her husband to MS and has won multiple awards for her efforts to raise support for those living with the degenerative disease.

A bombshell February 8 interview with Libs of TikTok’s Chaya Raichik revealed that after being confused at a demand to use gender pronouns in her email signature, National MS Society Community Engagement Manager Kali Kumor fired Itkoff.

“I had seen [pronouns] on a couple of letters that had come in after the person’s name, but I didn’t know what it meant,” Itkoff recounted. “So when I finally talked to her, I asked what it meant… And she said that meant they were all-inclusive, which didn’t make sense to me.”

Kumor, who has wiped her presence from the internet since the story went viral, accused the elderly volunteer of violating the organization’s “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) guidelines.

“Unfortunately, based on the situation, we have made the difficult decision to have you step down from your volunteer position, effective immediately,” a termination email stated.

Kumor went on to sever the collaboration between Itkoff’s local California MS support group and the national society.

Itkoff said she was “completely shocked” to receive such a message.

“I can’t believe… I had to read it a couple of times to see if I’m getting what she said,” she told Raichik. 

Before ultimately deciding to apologize on Wednesday, the National MS Society doubled and tripled down on its initial decision to fire Itkoff. 

In an internal email following the Libs of TikTok interview, an executive vice president of the organization implied that the 90-year-old volunteer made people feel “unsafe” and instructed other volunteers and staff to stay silent on social media about the controversy.

Then, the sudden resignation of the society’s president and CEO, Cyndi Zagieboylo, added fuel to the flames. 

The organization then tripled down on its decision to can Itkoff in a February 15 press release:

Recently, a volunteer, Fran Itkoff, was asked to step away from her role because of statements that were viewed as not aligning with our policy of inclusion. Fran has been a valued member of our volunteer team for more than 60 years. We believe that our staff acted with the best of intentions and did their best to navigate a challenging issue. As an organization, we are in a continued conversation about assuring that our diversity, equity and inclusion policies evolve in service of our mission, and will reach out to Fran in service of this goal.

It took until February 21 for the organization to apologize after receiving thousands of angry comments online from supporters of Itkoff and those living with MS who want to expel wokeness from advocacy groups.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society apologizes to our longtime, dedicated volunteer Fran Itkoff. Recently, we asked Fran to step down from her role as a group leader because of statements made that we viewed as not aligning with our recently implemented diversity, equity and inclusion policy. We realize now that we made a mistake, and we should have had more conversations with Fran before making this decision. 

Over her 60 years of volunteer service, Fran has been a committed champion for our cause. We had an opportunity to work with her and support her as a self-help group volunteer leader, but as an organization, we fell short.

The society went on to claim that officials had acted “with the best intentions” but failed because they “did not have clear protocols in place”:

We should have spent more time with Fran to help her understand why, as an organization, we are dedicated to building a diverse and inclusive movement where everyone has equitable access to the care, connections, and support they need to live their best lives.

The organization went on to write that it had already apologized to Itkoff directly and reached out to her “to find a way to continue to work together.”

According to Raichik, the decision to apologize came “better late than never, but this never should’ve happened to begin with!”

“They put an old woman under unnecessary stress,” she added.

Janice Dean, a Fox News weather anchor who lives with MS, lambasted the organization. 

“It took you this long to admit you were wrong ⁦@mssociety⁩? I think many of us have realized that you care more about being politically correct than helping those of us who live with MS,” she wrote on X. “A good lesson.”

“PS, Fran, thank you for helping all of us by trying to raise money and awareness for a cure someday. I’m grateful,” she wrote in a follow-up post.

Conservative commentator Megyn Kelly also criticized the society’s apology as a “fail.”

“Another FAIL from the MS Society – they finally apologize to the 90-yr-old volunteer they fired for not understanding why she was forced to say her pronouns but now say what they shld’ve done was work w/her to explain how wonderful DEI is,” Kelly exclaimed. “WRONG AGAIN.”


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