Vicious attacks on Hillary Clinton are for sale on buttons and T-shirts

Some buttons and T-shirts on sale in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention attacking Hillary Clinton might make even her harshest critics wince.

Warning: This story contains images and language that some readers may find offensive

Vicious attacks on Hillary Clinton are on sale in Cleveland during the Republican National Convention. 'I think they are hysterical,' says Jennifer Rak, right, a Republican from Ohio who stopped to buy a souvenir with her mother, Dale Hinsley, left, of Indiana. (Carla Turner/CBC)

Crammed end to end along the crowded sidewalks of downtown Cleveland are tables layered with T-shirts, buttons and bobbleheads.

It's a carnival atmosphere where sellers call out to passersby, as if they could be missed wedged between restaurants on one side and busy street traffic on the other.

Most of the souvenirs are harmless. They are about Donald Trump, of course, offering to Make America Great Again.

But there are a few buttons and the odd T-shirt about his Democratic opponent for U.S. president, Hillary Clinton, that might make even her harshest critics wince.
A button attacking Hillary Clinton refers to Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern who had a sexual relationship with Clinton's husband, former president Bill Clinton. (Carla Turner/CBC)

"Life's a bitch. Don't vote for one," says one of the buttons, complete with a picture of an angry Clinton, screaming at no one in particular.

"Hillary sucks! But not like Monica!" reads another, referring to Monica Lewinsky, whose sordid affair with Bill Clinton is legendary. Monica and Hillary photos are side by side on the button.

Another button mentions Hillary's body parts and connects them to Kentucky Fried Chicken. "KFC Hillary Special.  2 fat thighs. 2 small breasts. … left wing."

"They buy 'em, " says Steve Scanlon, a large man who sells his wares from the comfort of a chair parked beside his souvenir stand. He says the Clinton-bashing buttons are hot sellers, even with women.

"It's the way society is, I guess. I don't like it but I just sell them."

CBC's Adrienne Arsenault walks through the crowd outside the convention arena in Cleveland.

Down the street, another man in army fatigues and a baseball cap sorts through a box full of buttons, unable to find any of the objectionable ones about Clinton.

"I used to have them. But I guess I sold out," he says, without giving his name.
A button mocking Clinton's body and politics compares her to a fast-food meal. (Carla Turner/CBC)

"I think they are hysterical," says Jennifer Rak, a Republican from Ohio who stopped to buy a souvenir with her mother Dale Hinsley of Indiana.

Both women initially dismissed the buttons as simply good fun. But then the conversation took a more serious tone. Making it clear she is not a supporter of Hillary Clinton, Rak says women in power positions are often criticized for their success.

"And that's why when women get to the top they are looked at as bitches because they've probably overcome a lot of things "

"They are really just strong, like men," says Hinsley, who then launches into a familiar theme here about Clinton's foreign policy record.

"She is a liar and a con and her and Bill have lied and cheated and as far as I'm concerned she's responsible for those guys killed in Benghazi."

Referring to the KFC Hillary Special button, Rak says women have always been objectified.
A T-shirt depicts Donald Trump disposing of Clinton. (Carla Turner/CBC)

But, she says, "If you want to equate that I have two small breasts and don't have a brain, then we have a problem, which is I guess is what they're saying."

"Those are truly objectionable", says Ryan Claassen, associate professor of political science at Kent State University.

"These displays indicate a disturbing level of hostility toward women among people I would expect better from," he says.

"Wow. I wish I could say I was surprised," said Anita Rios, president of Ohio NOW, the National Organization for Women.

"This is how the ugly rhetoric of the Trump campaign, levelled at Hillary and at women in general, trickles down to create space for the nastiest forms of misogyny," she said.

Women's groups and the Democrats have repeatedly criticized the Trump campaign for policies that are unfriendly to women. Some call it a war on women.

Trump has declared he would ban abortion and suggested women should be punished for getting one.


Carla Turner

Freelance journalist and audio producer

Carla Turner is a freelance journalist and audio producer. She was previously an executive director at CBC Toronto.