Rapidly, the angry mother became an overnight meme sensation: “Kidz Bop Karen.”
Now, Klein has spoken out to recount what led up to the incident, calling it “another wild New York encounter” in an interview with Fox News. And although she “feels bad” for the woman, Klein said, someone claiming to be the road-raging driver has continued harassing her online.
For her part, the woman — who has not been publicly identified — said she has owned up to the incident, telling TMZ that she deserved the online mockery for her bad behavior on tape.
The video was captured during rush hour Friday, when Klein was riding in a Lyft down Manhattan’s West Side Highway on her way home to New Jersey. At a red light near 39th Street, her car appeared to cut off another driver.
“Karen,” while driving with her children in the back seat, flashed Klein her middle finger and her driver the middle finger. Klein wasn’t sure what had happened, she told WPIX, so she said she did what she always does when faced with road rage: respond with a thumbs-up.
But that move prompted an irate “Karen” to exit her car and start yelling at the Lyft driver, sticking her head into the vehicle through the passenger-side window. When Klein instructed the woman to “calm down,” she only got louder.
That’s when Klein pulled out her phone and started filming. “You never know what’s going to happen, the world is a scary place,” she told AOL. “I wanted to make sure if something happened, I had it on camera.”
The video, which Klein later shared on her Instagram page, shows “Karen” as she leaned through the window of the Lyft and berated Klein and her driver, even after he apologizes for the incident. (Klein has since made her Instagram page private.)
“She thinks it’s cute that her driver almost hit my kids,” the woman said, “and she thinks she needs to take a video of it instead of apologizing like a sane human.”
“So stopping in the middle of the road is going to help?” Klein replied.
“You being a b---- is going to help? I don’t know? Calm down! Calm down!”
The driver kept on apologizing, but “Karen” kept dropping curse words. Klein told the woman that her kids could hear her cursing and tells her to “set an example.” The woman blows up in rage, uttering a line that BuzzFeed would later call “the comeback to end all comebacks.”
“My kids can’t hear me calling you a b----,” Karen tells her. “They can’t hear me because they’re listening to Kidz Bop.”
Those 10 words were all the Internet needed. Overnight, a meme was born.
After Klein uploaded the video to her Instagram account on Friday, it was picked up by Barstool Sports, which spread the footage of the woman all over the platform and beyond: On Facebook, some likened her to Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.” On Twitter, others mashed the angry mom telling Klein to “calm down” with the Taylor Swift song of a similar name. Teenagers on TikTok pretended to be the woman’s kids, jamming out in the back seat of her car. By early Thursday, the video on Barstool’s Twitter had been viewed more than 16.5 million times.
And it wasn’t long before she received her own alliterative Internet moniker, following in the footsteps of other middle-aged white women captured in on-camera outbursts: BBQ Becky and Cornerstore Caroline, Permit Patty and Pool Patrol Paula. It’s unclear whether race played any role in this latest incident — Klein is white, and most of the other viral villains have called the police on African Americans who were doing routine activities — but it seems that her invocation of Kidz Bop may have also struck a nerve.
The highly sanitized, kid-friendly pop covers have asserted their irreplaceable spot on SUV soundtracks everywhere for nasally harmonies that are performed “by kids, for kids.” Since 2004, a rotating cast of teeny-boppers (at one point including singer Becky G and actress Zendaya) has re-created nearly every Top 40 song imaginable, producing a whopping 39 albums, plus multiple specials for Halloween and Christmas and special compilations with names like “Party Pop” and “Ultimate Hits.”
When TMZ reached the woman this week, she solved one mystery on everyone’s mind: Her children had been listening to the Kidz Bop version of the Lil Nas X song “Old Town Road.” Though the song may not matter. Said one man on Twitter, “This is what you get when an adult is forced to listen to kids bop for absolutely any time at all.”
And why “Karen”? Well, as The Washington Post’s Teddy Amenabar wrote of a tropical storm of the same name, “Karen is used on the Internet to describe the sort of woman who firmly asks to see your manager.” In other words, stopping a car in the middle of a packed thoroughfare at rush hour may not be akin to calling the police on a black person who is golfing or trying to enter their apartment, but it can otherwise be considered peak Karen.
In what seems to be atypically Karen behavior, though, this particular Karen has owned up to her sins. Sort of.
“I think that was a video of me in that moment so that’s absolutely who I was in that moment,” she told WPIX, which called the woman but declined to name her. “I don’t think it’s fair to short that responsibility. I think that’s a cop out.”
In an interview with TMZ, she went further, admitting that her behavior was an example of white privilege at work. Besides falsely being labeled a Republican, she doesn’t seem to mind seeing her outburst turned into a meme, because the episode could have taken a very different turn if a person of color was in her shoes.
She said she wishes the Lyft driver the best and expresses the same sentiment to Klein.
A woman claiming to be “Karen” had mocked her on Instagram, she said, allegedly writing: “She looks 30 pounds lighter in her feed. Also, her complexion is better. She should have these filters on her in real life.”
While the unidentified woman’s family members have contacted Klein to apologize, she told WPIX, the woman herself has reached out only to demand that she receive a cut of any royalties generated by the viral video.
“Any money you make promoting my likeness is due to me,” “Karen” wrote in an email to Klein, according to the TV station. “I’m happy for your 15 minutes of fame. It has come at zero cost to you, I’m not sure why you feel a need to expose me or demean me.”
For what it’s worth, Klein told WPIX, she hasn’t made any money off the incident, anyway.