Right-wing leaders are hailing the man who was charged with killing a homeless man on a New York subway car earlier this month as a “hero,” “a good samaritan,” and “a Subway Superman,” and their supporters have already pledged millions of dollars to his legal defense fund.
A crowdfunding campaign set up by the lawyers representing Daniel Penny, who is charged with killing homeless dancer Jordan Neely, has already amassed over $2 million in donations.
The fund was set up by lawyers Thomas Kenniff and Steven Kaiser last week, but exploded over the weekend after Penny handed himself into prosecutors in Manhattan on Friday. He was released on a $100,000 cash bail.
In total, over 40,000 people have contributed to the fund.
The top contribution to the campaign came on Monday morning when far-right podcaster Tim Pool donated $20,000 to the fund. “Penny is the Subway Good Samaritan and we are lucky to have brave souls like him who are willing to do the right thing,” Pool tweeted on Monday morning, confirming his donation.
Pool took the top spot from a pair of $10,000 donations, one of which came from Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, whose campaign office confirmed the donation to VICE News.
Another of the top donations to the cause, this time $5,000, was listed as coming from musician Kid Rock, who used the donation as an opportunity to opine on Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, leaving the message: “Mr. Penny is a hero. Alvin Bragg is a POS. Kid Rock.”
Meanwhile, a crowdfunding campaign set up to support Neely’s family has raised just $123,000.
Penny is charged with manslaughter after he restrained Neely, 30, on a subway train for several minutes on May 1. Penny has not entered a plea, but his lawyers claim the former Marine could not have known his actions would lead to Neely’s death.
From the very beginning, right-wing lawmakers and conservative commentators have sought to reframe the debate over Neely’s death as one related to Democrats being weak on crime. Neely, who was homeless, was in psychological distress at the time Penny “subdued” him, according to witness accounts. But Penny’s defenders tried to justify his actions by claiming that Neely posed a threat to passengers.
Now, just as they did with Kyle Rittenhouse, who was ultimately acquitted in the killing of two people with an assault rifle during a racial justice protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 2020, the right is lionizing Penny, who is white, and demonizing the Black unhoused man he killed.
“Jordan Neely was a violent criminal who should have been behind bars,” Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene wrote on Twitter on May 6, in a post that was liked by Twitter CEO Elon Musk. Greene was referring to a police statement that Neely had 44 previous arrests for offenses such as assault, disorderly conduct, and fare evasion.
After Penny handed himself into the Manhattan District Attorney and was charged with manslaughter on Friday, rightwing calls to defend him became much more vocal.
“We stand with Good Samaritans like Daniel Penny. Let’s show this Marine… America’s got his back,” Florida Governor and a presumed candidate for the GOP presidential nomination Ron DeSantis wrote in a post linking to Penny’s legal defense fund.
“The Marine who stepped in to protect others is a hero,” Greene wrote on Twitter, while Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz tweeted: “‘Subway Superman’ Daniel Penny is a HERO. Today, I will personally be donating to his legal defense fund on GiveSendGo.”
Away from Twitter, on more fringe message boards and platforms where far-right figures congregate, the comments also expressed support for Penny—but in much more racist and violent terms.
“One fewer n****r roams the streets causing harm. Good job soldier,” an anonymous 4chan user posted on Friday, while on the pro-Trump message board known as The Donald, a user suggested creating a campaign to spread lies about Neely.
“Since the left has arrested Daniel Penny for killing Jordan Neely we need to start memes on Twitter and wherever we can showing Neely was convicted of kidnapping a 7-year-old girl,” the user wrote. “We can destroy the left’s narrative fast by pointing out they want a pedo on the street kidnapping children.”
There is absolutely no evidence to back up these claims.
As well as supporting Penny, far-right commenters also expressed hatred towards Bragg, who has previously come under fire from the same group of people for his investigations into former President Donald Trump.
In response to a link to a story about Bragg charging Penny, one poster on The Donald wrote, “The only problem is finding a rope strong enough and a lamp post sturdy enough to hold his fat ass.”