There was a time when Emily Murphy was the ultimate fan of the millennial pop culture podcast The Morning Toast. The show, hosted by Instagram-famous meme queen and comedian Claudia Oshry and her sister Jackie, is a daily morning show about pop culture. Murphy, 28, listened daily. She joined more than 100 affiliated Facebook groups. She even paid more than $700, and drove four hours, alone, to rural Pennsylvania for “Camp Toast,” a weekend touted as a chance for fans to hang with the sisters IRL.
Then, in January, she attended Claudia’s comedy show at the Beacon Theatre in New York City. When the show started, Jackie entered the theater with the sisters’ mother, the anti-Muslim, far-right commentator Pamela Geller. Geller, a former journalist turned blogger, gained prominence in 2010 for her campaign against the so-called Ground Zero mosque and is now known as “one of the most flamboyant anti-Muslim activists” in the US according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The crowd burst into wild cheers, Murphy said, describing it as if Geller were “Justin Bieber or something.”
“She was literally paraded through the audience,” Murphy said. “People were yelling, ‘Oh you’re a queen, we love your outfit!’ Just craziness.”
For Murphy, the incident cemented a growing unease she had felt about what she said was once her “complete stanhood” of the sisters, who have long courted controversy for their own perceived racist and insensitive behavior, and for not publicly disavowing their mother’s most extreme views.
In fact, it wasn’t two years ago that the sisters were written off by some as canceled. In 2018 the Daily Beast revealed that Geller was Claudia and Jackie’s mother — and that the sisters had racist tweets of their own. Verizon’s Oath quickly dropped their old podcast and online show, The Morning Breath. Claudia lost big Instagram sponsorships. They both deleted their Twitter accounts.
But, since then, Claudia and Jackie have only become more influential. They relaunched their podcast a month after the Daily Beast story, keeping and adding to their now-huge network of fans. Claudia’s Girl With No Job Instagram meme account has grown from approximately 2.8 million followers before the 2018 scandal to at least 3.1 million, according to SocialBlade. Their devoted fans, known in the community as “Toasters” or “Steens,” have created more than 250 Facebook groups. They buy the podcast’s merch. They go to the events.
“My theory is that they are performative influencers, catering to a millennial female liberal demographic.”
After I posted that I was writing about Claudia and the podcast on my Instagram story — The Morning Toast’s Instagram soon after reposted it — I was inundated with hundreds of messages from fans of the podcast. The fans said they were willing to look past the scandals to continue enjoying a lighthearted podcast about pop culture. Women wrote long emails about how the podcast had made them feel closer to family and friends by giving them something to connect over, and how beautiful and fun the Toaster community is. “The Morning Toast has truly helped me get through those dark days,” one wrote. “The Morning Toast changed my life,” another told me over email. Many women pointed to Claudia and Jackie posting in support of the Black Lives Matter movement to say that the sisters are trying to learn from others and buck their conservative upbringing.
But over the past year, several former Toasters told BuzzFeed News, it has become hard to continue to support the Oshrys and their community. They have watched some members of the fanbase become toxic, harassing fans who criticized the sisters online. In May, after the sisters hosted a birthday party during New York City’s quarantine, a nurse posted asking them to set a better example — but instead the sister responded by releasing a podcast called “Taking Out the Trash.” When protests erupted nationwide following George Floyd’s death, Geller tweeted a racist comment about Floyd. Many Toast fans were outraged and disappointed when the sisters did not publicly address Geller’s comments.
These incidents were the last straw for many Toasters. More than 100 of the Facebook groups affiliated with The Morning Toast have rebranded to distance themselves from the sisters in the past couple of months. Murphy wrote an essay, called “Sincerely a Former Toaster,” outlining what, in her eyes were the sisters’ continued missteps, which finally made her disavow them. It soon went viral among the Toaster community.
“My theory is that they are performative influencers, catering to a millennial female liberal demographic,” said one former fan, Kristen Landels. “They don’t see what’s wrong with their mother’s ideologies because they really do agree with her and they live in that delusion.”
Looking back at Claudia’s and Jackie’s careers and how they amassed a large and loyal fanbase, BuzzFeed News found more than a dozen previously unreported blog posts by Claudia, some of which express hateful opinions similar to Geller’s. Multiple women also told BuzzFeed News they have been harassed, getting demeaning and threatening DMs and comments online from the podcast’s increasingly toxic army of fans. Many have also soured on the sisters themselves, who repeatedly have refused to apologize for continued missteps. Fans who have paid hundreds of dollars to attend podcast events to meet the sisters say that in person, the Oshrys were standoffish and barely associated with them.
Claudia, Jackie, and Claudia’s husband, Ben Soffer, did not respond to multiple requests for interviews for this story. Calls and texts to a publicly listed number for Claudia went unanswered. BuzzFeed News also sent a detailed list of points addressed in this story to Claudia, Jackie, and Soffer’s listed email addresses, and did not receive a response.
Many former fans are now wondering if the sisters and their brand will now really be canceled, or at least be forced to own up to their mistakes. But can someone like Claudia Oshry, with millions of followers, and an unwillingness to apologize, ever truly be canceled? Or is all of this really just making her more influential?
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Claudia was born in 1994 as the third of Geller’s four daughters with her husband, Michael Oshry, and grew up on Long Island. Oshry inherited a highly profitable car dealership from his father and owned another dealership, Universal Auto World, on Long Island, according to the New York Post. Geller had worked at the Daily News and served as the associate publisher at the New York Observer, but according to a New York Times profile from 2010, quit her job in 1994 to stay at home full-time with her daughters.
In 2007, the Oshrys experienced major life upheaval. On January 11, Collin Thomas, a member of the sales staff at Oshry’s Universal Auto World, was found shot to death at the dealership, leading police to unravel a massive, long-running fraud at the dealership that resulted in 11 arrests, according to News12. Oshry himself was not charged and the dealership folded. Geller, Claudia, and Jackie were not implicated.
Geller and her daughters seem to have escaped from the drama surrounding their father relatively unscathed. When Geller and Oshry divorced in 2007, Geller was awarded nearly $4 million, the New York Times reported, and moved into a $2.2 million apartment, which took up an entire floor of a Midtown condo building, according to property records. Oshry, his lawyer told the Times, supported Geller’s blogging, “even though he didn’t always agree with what she was saying.” The Oshry girls, who moved with their mother to the new apartment, were enrolled in Ramaz School, a private Jewish school on the Upper East Side. In 2008, Michael Oshry died suddenly of a heart attack. Jackie wrote in a piece for the Huffington Post in 2014 that her father’s death left a “gaping hole” in her family, which “my sisters, my mom and I have each tried to fill.” Oshry’s death also meant his daughters received a $5 million life insurance policy, according to the Times.
Claudia enrolled at New York University in 2012, where, according to a 2014 blog post, her mother made her live in the dorms for her first year, thinking it would be “good for her.”
“Not shockingly, I was a hit and made a ton of friends who licked the ground I walked on,” Claudia wrote. “I was invited to and was the life of every party, bullied my roommate till she moved out and only managed to gain about seven pounds.”
In the same blog post, she wrote that at the end of her first year, she “moved as far away from the NYU campus as possible and have only maintained one friendship from that year.” Since then, she wrote in the beginning of her junior year in 2014, she had gone out of her way to avoid the “pimple-faced freaks” she knew on campus and had to fight her desires to tell them to “fuck off” when she saw them.
In another 2014 blog post, Claudia wrote that Geller had “forced” her to get an internship at an online fashion company during her first year at NYU — an opportunity that led to her big break. In the blog post, Claudia wrote she was the “worst and least useful intern to ever grace their halls” and kept “fucking shit up.” She decided her antics were funny enough to share, so she started a blog called GirlWithAJob.com, where she wrote mostly made-up anecdotes about her intern life. After her boss found her blog via Facebook, Claudia deleted it and lost her internship. Thus her new blog, Girl With No Job, was born.
Claudia mostly blogged about pop culture, but some of the posts verged into racist and discriminatory territory. One of the most egregious posts from 2014, titled “A Love Letter to: Housekeepers,” is about famous housekeepers in entertainment. Claudia wrote about her own, complete with a photo of her housekeeper, named Maria, “cliché I know,” she wrote.
“She is 4 feet, round, and unbelievably lazy,” Claudia wrote of Maria. “She’s been in this country for almost 20 years and doesn’t speak a single word of English. My family and I are convinced that she actually understands minimal English and uses it to eavesdrop on us shit talking her. I wouldn’t be surprised. I feel like once a housekeeper joins a family, she automatically inherits their last name.”
Claudia’s pop culture commentary also took jabs at several prominent Black artists. In a post about the 2016 Grammys, she mocked Kendrick Lamar’s Compton-themed performance by asking if he was a member of the Clovers, the cheerleading group from “Bring It On.” In another blog post, she expressed surprise that “North West isn’t as ugly as I thought she would be.” In a post from 2014, Claudia went on a rant against the NAACP after commenting on a dress Lupita N’yongo wore to an event.
“What exactly are the NAACP Awards? Are white people allowed? Can you imagine if there was a NAAWP (national association for the advancement of white people) awards hosted by Alec Baldwin? When did it become okay for one race to be the boss of everybody because thats [sic] not what Hollywood is about we should TOTALLY JUST STAB LUPITA!” she wrote.
Claudia’s blog also touched on anti-LGBTQ themes, such as her frequently referring to Caitlyn Jenner as “TransJenner” and an entire blog post about how dismayed she was that Cara Delevingne had come out as a “Delesbian.” She also called Michelle Rodriguez, who Delevingne was dating at the time, “this fine young lad.”
Claudia wrote multiple times about her dislike of Beyoncé, who she wrote in 2015 was her “least favorite person in the world.” In one blog, she described Beyoncé’s daughter, Blue Ivy, as looking like “Albert Einstein if he got struck by lightning,” calling a woman who started a change.org petition for Beyoncé to comb her child’s hair “my new hero.”
In response to Beyoncé’s performance at the 2014 Grammy Awards, Claudia wrote: “You and your husband are worth like a billion dollars and you couldn’t invest in a blow dryer? You’re a mom now, Bey, so start acting like it and stop dry humping the furniture.”
Claudia took aim at women and their bodies, writing that Girls star Lena Dunham was “severely overweight,” and that nobody “wants to see her naked on TV.”
Claudia frequently discussed her attempts at dieting and weight loss.
“My mom keeps telling me that it will eventually stop being so hard and start becoming natural,” she wrote in one post. Claudia also discussed in depth her experience going to “fat camp” as a child, which she and Jackie have made part of their personal brand in their podcast.
Unlike her mother, Claudia didn’t openly disclose many of her political beliefs on her blog. “I don’t usually discuss politics or anything of that nature because everyone would disagree with me ’cause you’re all idiots,” she wrote.
However, she did address a complaint from a commenter who said her blog was “an affront to women everywhere.” Claudia responded, in a 2014 post titled “Feminism,” advising if you are “an avid Jezebel reader or Teva wearer you will not like what you’re about to read.” She argued that if the commenter didn’t like her blog, she shouldn’t read it, a mantra that she and Jackie would later repeat to quiet haters of their podcast.
“Since when does feminism imply hating on other women who aren’t like you? If this is modern day feminism, then I am certainly not a feminist,” she wrote.
In February 2016, Claudia wrote a blog post called “5 Times Donald Trump’s Twitter Was Everything.”
“Regardless of your political affiliation, I think we can all agree on one very simple thing: the best thing to happen to the internet is Donald Trump joining Twitter,” she wrote. “When he’s not going off on Twitter rants about how the media treats him unfairly, his Twitter can actually be a magical and insightful place.”
She ended the post: “#MakeAmericaGreatAgain.”
As Claudia blogged on her website, she also worked on building her social media platforms. She launched Girl With No Job on Instagram in 2013 and quickly built her following as a meme account.
Her reposting of memes and funny photos made her follower count skyrocket. By November 2014 she had more than 200,000 followers. By July 2015, she hit a million followers, according to SocialBlade, and had “Girl With No Job” Twitter, Facebook, Vine, and Snapchat accounts as well.
Meme accounts that reposted funny tweets and other relatable jokes, were wildly popular in the mid-2010s. Elliot Tebele’s FuckJerry account hit 1 million followers in 2014 after Tebele honed his meme craft on Tumblr (Tebele now has 15 million followers and runs his own marketing agency). TheFatJewish, aka Josh Ostrovsky, grew from roughly 300,000 followers in April 2014 to 2 million by the start of 2015 (he now has 10 million followers and a wine brand).
It didn’t take long for these huge meme accounts, especially Tebele and Ostrovsky’s, to come under intense scrutiny, as multiple comedians accused both meme kings of reposting memes or Twitter jokes without any credit, and getting rich off of them (both creators have apologized for not properly crediting comedians in the past). Claudia too has been accused on Twitter of stealing jokes, but it doesn’t appear that she ever responded to those claims.
Claudia’s meme account made her the millennial toast of the old media town. She posed with Bachelor stars on her Instagram and appeared on Candidly Nicole with Nicole Richie. “This Millennial Makes More Money Posting Selfies From Bed Than You Do at Your 9-to-5,” proclaimed one profile, and ABC’s Nightline marveled how “This Girl With No Job Makes Money Just by Posting on Instagram.” Entrepreneur magazine called her an “Instagram Icon,” and she was nominated for a People’s Choice Award and a Shorty Award. She appeared on Say Yes to the Dress and her 2017 wedding to Ben Soffer was featured on the Knot.
In April 2017, Claudia and her older sister Jackie, who had also been trying to make it as an influencer and writer with less success, launched a podcast and livestream morning show called The Morning Breath hosted by Verizon’s now-defunct Oath media brand.
While the Instagram page and podcast grew more successful, most people were unaware of the connection between the sisters and Geller. In March 2018 the Daily Beast wrote a story titled “The Instagram Stars Hiding Their Famous, Muslim-Hating Mom, Pamela Geller.” The story also detailed anti-Muslim tweets from both Claudia and Jackie, and claimed Jackie had openly supported Trump in 2016. The backlash was swift. Oath soon canceled The Morning Breath. But the scandal did not derail the women — if anything they have become more successful since 2018. A month after The Morning Breath was canceled, the sisters rebranded the podcast to The Morning Toast, hosting it on their own. Their first episode aired on April 9, 2018.
The podcast’s Instagram account now has 195,000 followers and the podcast has nearly 10,000 patrons paying $7.99 a month for premium content, including five extra podcast episodes a month. The sisters have hosted two “Camp Toasts” in rural Pennsylvania for fans, charging around $700 per person. The sisters sell Morning Toast merch on a website, with $60 cropped sweatshirts and sweatpants. In 2019, Claudia went on a 16-stop comedy tour called “Dirty Jeans” and released a comedy special called Disgraced Queen.
As the podcast grew, the sisters attracted more and more fans. Murphy had been furiously googling all about a Bachelor in Paradise scandal in 2017, when she found The Morning Breath’s coverage of it. “From then it just kind of spiraled from complete stanhood into that,” she said. She soon joined the thriving and passionate Morning Toast community on Facebook, where the most active members were called “Famous Toasters.”
Rachel, a 29-year-old teacher from Mesa, Arizona, found The Morning Toast through the Bachelor franchise as well, and joined the main Facebook group. At first, she loved it because of all the pop culture “tea” being spilled, she said. But Rachel, who asked her last name be withheld, is autistic, and eventually decided to ask in the main group if anyone would be interested in joining a subgroup for autistic Toasters.
“I got over 500 comments of people being understanding like I’ve never experienced before,” Rachel said. She added: “Since then, I have been kind of overly attached to the community, I think.” Rachel went on to moderate a little more than a dozen subgroups on various topics, but now says she no longer supports the sisters.
Murphy said the current Toaster culture is much different than the community she fell in love with, which used to do Secret Santa and Galentine’s gift exchanges and compliment each other’s outfits.
“Being in the groups before was the most supportive, hype you up, amazing place to be on the internet,” she said.
Over time Murphy said the groups became more catty — and more obsessively supportive of Claudia and Jackie, who moderated the main Facebook page. Dissenters got purged, they say, by Claudia and Jackie. When Jackie received backlash in 2019 for saying she felt safer in more expensive movie theaters and refused to apologize, some Toasters wrote in the group that they were disappointed by her comments. One Toaster, Shannon Omlor, told BuzzFeed News she had posted that “Jackie not apologizing shows a complete lack of empathy.” Within an hour, she said, she was kicked out of the main group and all other groups the Oshrys moderated.
“This was the first of many purgings,” she said. “Basically if you comment or post anything remotely negative about the girls, they’ll kick you out.”
Another “final straw” for many Toasters was an Instagram story Claudia posted earlier this year, talking about a scene from One Tree Hill. Claudia wrote that a character “deserved” to be raped because she had a “webcam in her room.” (Claudia later apologized in the main group.)
Kelli, a former Toaster and math teacher, told BuzzFeed News that as a survivor of domestic violence, she could no longer support the sisters after seeing that. She said she also realized over time that the sisters were “ignorant and entitled.”
“[The] consistent lack of empathy, lack of actually reading about the topics they discuss on the podcast, and deleting any comments of genuine critique frustrated myself and the other fans that I am friends with,” she said.
There were a few other signs to many of their followers that the Oshrys weren’t exactly who they appeared to be online. For Murphy, one flag was when she paid nearly $730 to attend “Camp Toast,” a four-day, three-night “extravaganza” for Toasters in May 2019. She said she was struck by how little Jackie and Claudia were involved in the weekend. In one instance, she was waiting in line for a water slide when Claudia showed up with a camera.
“She cut in front of the whole line, jumped on a tube with these girls, didn’t say a word to them, and just asked Olivia to take pictures,” Murphy said, referring to Claudia’s other sister. “So in the pictures, it looks like, hey, there you are hanging out with Girl With No Job, your favorite podcast host you’re on a tube with, you’re flying around, but in reality she didn’t say two words to these girls. She just rolled up, asked her sister to take a picture, and then rolled away.” She added that she later saw the photo on Claudia’s Instagram page.
Barbara Klenke, a teacher currently living in Virginia, told BuzzFeed News that she had carpooled with two other fans from Louisville, where she was living at the time, to attend. She said she decided to go after seeing photos on Instagram of the previous year’s Camp Toast, which seemed to depict the Oshrys having “genuine and awesome” interactions with fans. The trip stretched her budget as a teacher, but she thought it would be worth it to hang out with Claudia and Jackie.
However, Klenke was incredibly disappointed by how little time she spent with the Oshrys. She said her interactions were brief, they skipped multiple events, and they brought friends along whom they spent most of their time with.
Klenke said the sisters “never ate with us” or mingled with the campers after the first welcome night. “They would always kind of disappear,” she said, adding, “It was disappointing because it was very rare that we saw them.”
She said she feels that Claudia and Jackie “100%” misrepresented how much face time the women would actually get with them. Both Murphy and Klenke said that the sisters did not do a live show of the podcast as advertised.
“It was a fun weekend, but it wasn’t what I wanted or what I was expecting or what I paid for,” Klenke said.
Klenke was so disappointed by the weekend that she sent Claudia and Jackie an email, which she shared with BuzzFeed News, with suggestions on how to make the camp better in the future. She also expressed her disappointment about missing the live shows and not getting much face time with the sisters.
“I know I had high expectations, but it was definitely a lot of the Instagram posts that we saw,” she told me. “I don’t think my expectations were anything outside of what I had seen.”
No one responded to her email, Klenke said, and she eventually stopped listening to the podcast. It just didn’t appeal to her anymore.
“It kind of soured any positive feelings I had for them,” she said.
For Murphy, it was the Oshrys’ response to the coronavirus and to the protests for racial justice that made her disassociate from the podcast. As she wrote in her essay, the women “who I thought were two relatable millennials turned out to be two completely out of touch adults with no accountability for their behavior and the consequences of their words and actions.”
Many former Toasters agreed. After Jackie and Claudia shared photos online of themselves gathering with family in May, in the middle of the New York City lockdown, one fan decided to question their decision in the main Facebook group. The woman, who said her name was Ashley and she was a nurse working during the pandemic, wrote she was “sad to see” the sisters gather and worried about the safety of their mother and sister Olivia, who was pregnant at the time.
She wrote that she hoped the sisters would “reconsider your actions moving forward for the safety of everyone and great influence of your platform.”
Instead, the sisters responded by posting a podcast on May 4 called “Taking Out the Trash. They said they had figured out a way to safely gather for Jackie’s husband’s birthday, following “all the guidelines.” They also announced they would be suspending the Facebook group indefinitely because of the haters.
Claudia described the criticism as people saying “evil things,” “misinformation,” and “unfair,” and said her family had been harassed with messages. Claudia cried as she slammed the lack of civil discourse, saying “living under this microscope is impossible.”
“It’s so taxing on my mental health to see all these lies,” Claudia said in the episode. “Real Toasters know,” Jackie said, coining what would become their new catchphrase. “Real Toasters, this isn’t for you, but I’m sure you’re glad to see us taking out the trash.”
The second incident several ex-Toasters said was their breaking point stemmed from the death of George Floyd. Shortly after his death, Geller claimed in since-deleted tweets that Floyd was drunk and that intoxication — not the knee chokehold he was placed in — had caused his death.
Claudia and Jackie dedicated their June 1 episode, which at 18 minutes long was significantly shorter than their usual 45, to Floyd, saying their hearts were heavy over his killing and it didn’t feel right doing a normal show. Jackie said there “seemed to be confusion” about how they felt about this issue — seemingly alluding to their mother’s tweets — and vehemently stressed that they believed that Black lives matter. Claudia emphasized that if their fans ever wondered how they felt about an issue, they should check out “our Instagrams” and “our podcasts” and “nowhere else.”
“Jackie and I are individuals,” Claudia said. “We are separate, grown women responsible for this platform and what we say and this platform, but we are not responsible for what other people think or say.”
The sisters said they were disgusted by racial injustice and were sorry for not speaking out about it in the past. They pledged to be allies and work in support of anti-racism, and launched a “movie of the week” campaign to highlight “stories of people of color” and invited their fans to join. They also addressed the fact that a lot of the Facebook groups had been disassociating from them, saying that they thought it was their prerogative.
Many fans said they believe the sisters are working to make themselves better, learn, and change, pointing out that plenty of people have parents whose views they don’t agree with. They are sympathetic to the sisters, who they think are in a tough position since their mother is their only living parent.
“Since the movement has begun the girls have supported multiple petitions, have posted and reshared things in support of the movement, they have recognized their privilege and are actively trying to educate themselves and their followers,” said fan Irini Pertesis. “These steps have shown me that they are changing and do not actively support their mother.”
“Ultimately, people’s aversion to their lack of empathy and ignorance is getting real and no one wants to sit quietly anymore.”
But for many fans, this podcast episode was not enough. They were tired of Claudia and Jackie refusing to acknowledge the hate spewed by their mother.
“Toasters online were demanding that Jackie and Claudia condemn her words, publicly say they did not agree,” Landels said. “But they didn’t.”
One former fan, who asked to remain anonymous, said she feels the sisters “made some surface-level comments for appearance purposes only to not lose any listeners or sponsorships and refused to denounce their mother and her comments.”
“Their morals and the way they treat people who are ‘beneath’ them doesn’t align with what I believe, so I stopped listening so they couldn’t profit off my viewership,” she said.
Mehek Khaira, another former fan, said even though she wanted to give the Oshrys the benefit of the doubt, the fact that they are so quiet about their mother has led her to believe “they really do share the same ideology as their mom.”
“Ultimately, people’s aversion to their lack of empathy and ignorance is getting real and no one wants to sit quietly anymore,” she said.
Murphy said she believes the sisters are quick to silence those who criticize their actions because there are many casual podcast fans who are unaware of the Oshry’s connection to Geller, the past accusations of racism and insensitivity against them, or the Facebook group infighting. It’s all strategic to keep their brand, she thinks.
“They will literally shut down anything that will make them look bad to these people, because they don’t want to lose any of these followers who are just clueless,” she said, adding that after posting her essay, the sisters blocked her from the Facebook groups without addressing her piece.
Since posting her essay, she said she has received “hurtful” comments on her essay, calling her a “special type of loser” and to get “a fucking life.” But to Murphy, that loyalty to the sisters, which she once felt too, is unfortunately misplaced.
“These girls don’t know you,” she said of Claudia and Jackie. “They don’t want to be your friend. They don’t really care about you, because as soon as you say something negative you’re gonna get blocked.”
As Murphy wrote in her essay, she and other former Toasters are “grieving a loss.”
“No matter how long we were fans or how long it took us to find our way out, there was a time we all supported you, listened to you, watched you and really believed in you,” she wrote. “Until slowly the mask was pulled back and we all saw how deep we had gotten ourselves into something that was hard to crawl out of.” ●