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This Popular Twitter Account About Dogs Sparked An Abortion Fight

American politics has officially gone to the dogs.

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This is Matt Nelson. The 20-year-old studies at Campbell University in North Carolina.

Instagram: @matt_nelson__

With more than 2 million Twitter followers, WeRateDogs delivers on what it promises, posting cute pictures of pups with funny captions.

Meet Stanley. He likes road trips. Will shift for you. One ear more effective than other. 13/10 we don't leave unti… https://t.co/RjBqu7O8Yw

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Fast forward to now. In case you missed it (and there's zero chance you did by this point), President Trump caused a bit of a frenzy on Twitter around midnight on Tuesday when he tweeted a typo, "covfefe," then left the post up for SIX HOURS.

Nelson was among those who got in on the fun. "It was hilarious," he told BuzzFeed News in a phone call on Wednesday. "I think it was the most fun content creators have had online since the election. Everyone was cracking jokes."

Nelson's first response was to tweet this picture of a dog named Dewey with a joke that the name was pronounced "covfefe."

This is Dewey (pronounced "covfefe"). He's having a good walk. Arguably the best walk. 13/10 would snug softly

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Then Nelson's e-commerce store coordinator got in touch with a quick mock-up of a hat with the phrase "Covfefe AF" to sell from the online store.

I'm so sorry https://t.co/7GvfnDYCqL

The hat was a hit, but a few people were mad at Nelson for using the popular account to make a quick buck, he said.

"Those comments got to me and I was like, I should probably donate this. Dog-related things crossed my mind, but I wanted to donate to something that contradicts this administration's values given it was all based off a Trump tweet," he said.

That's when he told followers that half the profits would be donated to Planned Parenthood. "It just felt like that would be a good place for it to go," he said, "and Planned Parenthood aligns with my personal beliefs."

@ShopWeRateDogs PUPDATE: half of all profits will be donated to @PPact

"The initial response was fantastic," he said. "People were like, 'This makes me want to get it immediately. Thank you for doing this.'"

@dog_rates @ShopWeRateDogs @PPact That's the BEST pupdate. #covfefe

Nelson saw a few negative comments, but retired to bed. "I woke up this morning and — we've never had that many comments in a 12-hour period. It was just unbelievable. I immediately recognized I fucked up," he said.

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Conservatives and others opposed to abortion railed against the account for what they said was political interference on a platform for cute dogs.

@dog_rates @ShopWeRateDogs @PPact I though this account was about funny dog stuff. But politics has completely ruin… https://t.co/dd6hTzOVwx

@dog_rates @ShopWeRateDogs @PPact This makes me sad as h*ck. I enjoyed your feed and humor, but politics are everyw… https://t.co/TlIGI8qIGz

@dog_rates @ShopWeRateDogs @PPact they're good babies, brent. why abort them?

@guypbenson @dog_rates @ShopWeRateDogs @PPact I am unfollowing. Enjoyed it before. Hopefully someone else starts a new dog rating twitter

(Someone did actually start a parody Alt-Rate account of conservative dogs FWIW.)

Such a good boy. Perhaps the best boy of them all? A strong, republican boy. Riddled with phlebitis. 14/10.

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This wasn't the first time WeRateDogs dipped a paw into politics, though. During Trump's travel ban, the account shared these heartwarming pictures of a pup reunited with his owner.

This is Dexter. He was reunited with his mom yesterday after she was stuck in Iran during the travel Bannon. 13/10… https://t.co/GBAOEZbHhN

But by lunchtime on Wednesday, the anti-abortion outrage had forced Nelson to do some reflecting, he said.

"It's not that I think I made a mistake on my values, but I didn't consider that my audience is truly diverse, because dogs are universally loved," he said. "Abortion is a lot more of a sensitive subject, even though it's not Planned Parenthood's main focus, so it's different from critiquing the travel ban."

Nelson spent an hour drafting an apology, which he then shared on Twitter.

Because people had already bought the hat, Nelson said he'd follow through with the Planned Parenthood donations, but he then pledged to match that amount in a contribution to dog shelters, "which is obviously much more on brand for us."

Nelson told BuzzFeed News he thought the apology was necessary, but did not see it as backing down.

"That would have been not following through with the donation to Planned Parenthood," he said.

Still, some on the left criticized the apology as yielding to anti-abortion groups.

@dog_rates uh catering to followers who hate women (& who think dogs are also more worthy of money than women) isn'… https://t.co/JoSfvcS2gA

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@dog_rates you suck so fuckin bad, dude. god damn. this is awful

"Since I already pissed off the right, now I'm pissing off the left because they say I'm buckling and cowardly, but everyone is saying that because they believe a certain thing," he said.

Nelson said he's learned to keep his personal politics away from pups.

"When you're trying to manage an account with 2 million people, it's hard to make everyone happy," he said.

David Mack is a reporter and weekend editor for BuzzFeed News in New York.

Contact David Mack at david.mack@buzzfeed.com.

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