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In an otherwise totally average TikTok, the Whitaker family’s video has gone massively viral for unintended reasons.
Posted on April 7, 2020, at 5: 08 p.m. ET
A large family and their “Something New” TikTok challenge has gone viral for, hmm, let’s say unintended reasons.
The Whitaker family is responding to a barrage of shocked reactions to the end of their TikTok, where the mom, Kim, is seen tossing their 14-year-old daughter Abbie, who has 1p36 deletion syndrome, a chromosome disorder that causes severe disabilities.
The family, from Jacksonville, Florida, is comprised of Kim and her husband, Lee, and their eight children ranging in age from 5 to 22.
“[Abbie] loves to be tossed just like any other child and laughs when she is just like every other child,” Kim told BuzzFeed News. “She has been my daughter for 14 years, and I know her better than anyone.”
Her eldest daughter, 22-year-old Kayle, told BuzzFeed News she was sitting on the couch 2 feet away from Abbie at the end of the TikTok to catch her. She also confirmed Abbie “laughed” and is fine, she said.
“If I wanted to, I could have touched her in my mom’s arms from where I was sitting. Nothing about what we did was dangerous or harmful to her,” Kaylee added.
Despite their assurances, their video skyrocketed in views and engagements over the past few days because people were seemingly shocked by what they saw. The video has now been viewed nearly 5 million times. (Note: Just hours prior it was at over 2 million views.)
It also has over 14,000 comments.
Most of the comments are visceral reactions to being gobsmacked, speechless, and otherwise humored. Some joked that they were going to report the video or call Child Protective Services.
However, a group of commenters were seriously concerned for Abbie’s well-being.
“She should not have been thrown :(,” one person wrote. “That last part wasn’t funny?” another added.
At one point, according to the family, the video was actually removed from their @whitakerquarantine family page, with the assumption being that people had reported the video enough to trigger TikTok’s algorithm.
Neither Kaylee nor Kim could recall when it was pulled down, but after Kaylee appealed the report last week, they said it was recently restored.
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However, when reached, a spokesperson for TikTok insisted to BuzzFeed News the content in-question was not removed or reported.
Kaylee said her seven siblings and her parents decided to make their own TikTok account and participate in all of the dance crazes and challenges as “something fun to do as a family during this quarantine.”
Kim added that Abbie “loves to be involved with her family” as much as possible, and is able to “laugh at [their] jokes.”
“Most of the time they understand way more than what you would give them credit for,” she said of her teen daughter. “I would never do anything that would harm her in any way.”
Kim also pointed to this informational blog about 1p36 deletion syndrome to spread more awareness and support.
“We are thankful for the comments of the people who stood up for us,” Kaylee added. “We do know that some people are genuinely concerned, and we want to assure them that she is well taken care of.”
For now, the Whitakers are continuing their TikTok careers, now with a huge unexpected bump in viewership.
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