Karen Klein, the upstate New York bus monitor tormented in the week’s most upsetting viral video, just can’t believe it. She can’t believe those kids could come up with the vile things they said to her, and she really can’t believe the Internet has raised her nearly $500,000 and rising for her troubles. “I just don’t feel like it’ll come to me anyway, so I don’t think too much about it,” she told Anderson Cooper last night, amid her whirlwind media tour. “I just don’t know if it’s for real or not. It sounds too good to be true.” But Max Sidorov, the Toronto man and Reddit user behind the fund-raising, assured Daily Intel that the funds will go directly to Klein’s bank account when the campaign ends in 29 days. “The money won’t touch my hands at all,” he said.
Klein’s story is everywhere just days after a YouTube video surfaced showing four seventh graders lobbing some of the most heinous insults imaginable at her for ten minutes straight. Two of the kids have apologized so far, with one named Josh telling CNN, “I am so sorry for the way I treated you. When I saw the video I was disgusted and could not believe I did that. I am sorry for being so mean and I will never treat anyone this way again.”
The 68-year-old grandmother isn’t buying it. “Of course he’s gonna say anything,” she told Cooper. “Josh always had this smirk on his face. I just don’t think I would believe anything Josh has to say.” But she said they’re not bad people, “not deep down,” and doesn’t think she’ll press criminal charges. “I want them to make sure that they never do this again to anybody,” she said. “I would like them to be at least kept off the bus for a year and be forbidden to play any sports.”
Cooper also surprised Klein by announcing that Southwest Airlines would fly her and nine people to Disneyland for an all-expense paid vacation. “You gotta be kidding me,” she replied. “Nine people?!”
The outpouring of support has taken some strange forms as well: Someone started a fund for the guy who started the Klein fund, and it’s raised almost $4,000 so far. (“I’m going to take part of my money and donate to anti-bullying groups,” Sidorov told Intel.) And there’s also a misguided petition, addressed to Barack Obama, to have the income tax waived on the Klein donations in the name of “economic justice.” It has over 6,000 signatures, but was amended with the following update: “It has been pointed out to me that (1) whereas this money is an aggregation of many small gifts, Karen will not have to pay taxes on it; and (2) even if she did, the president does not have the authority to waive them.” It’s the thought that counts.