Bernie Sanders Meme Merchandise Earns $1.8 Million for Vermont Charities


Sales of T-shirts and sweatshirts featuring the viral image of a cross-legged, mitten-wearing Senator Bernie Sanders bundled up for a cold Inauguration Day have raised nearly $2 million for Vermont charities, his campaign announced on Wednesday.

The merchandise, which includes a “Chairman Sanders” crew neck that sold for $45 on the senator’s campaign store, earned $1.8 million for organizations like Meals on Wheels, Feeding Chittenden and groups supporting elderly Vermonters, the campaign said.

“Jane and I were amazed by all the creativity shown by so many people over the last week,” Mr. Sanders said in a statement, referring to his wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders. “We’re glad we can use my internet fame to help Vermonters in need.”

Products and handicrafts inspired by the photo of Mr. Sanders, a Vermont independent, have been the subject of intense demand. One Texas woman’s crocheted Bernie Sanders doll sold this week for $20,300. (The money will be donated to Meals on Wheels America, the woman, Tobey King, said on Instagram.)

Credit…Billy Calzada/The San Antonio Express-News, via Associated Press

The viral image, which shows Mr. Sanders in a mask and a bulky winter coat looking unamused outside the U.S. Capitol, was taken last week by the photographer Brendan Smialowski. It quickly became a meme, spreading like wildfire across parts of the internet.

Not long after the ceremony concluded, Mr. Sanders had been meticulously edited into images of the moon landing, a New York City subway train, “The Last Supper” and even a scene from “Game of Thrones.”

“I genuinely enjoy the fact that people are having a lighthearted moment from a political photo,” Mr. Smialowski said in an interview with The New York Times. “Things have been pretty tough for the last year and politics can be pretty nasty, and here are people just having fun.”

Though less dazzling than the designer outfits worn by Michelle Obama, Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez, the brown-and-cream wool mittens Mr. Sanders wore to the ceremony drew a substantial amount of attention. They were made by Jen Ellis, a Vermont schoolteacher, who said she gave them to the senator years ago.

On Monday, Ms. Ellis said that Mr. Sanders had called her to say that the frenzy had raised an “enormous” amount of money but that he was not authorized to say the amount.

Ms. Ellis also said she had made three pairs of mittens, and donated a pair each for auction to Passion 4 Paws Vermont and Outright Vermont. The third pair, she said, would be auctioned on eBay for her daughter’s college fund.

The Vermont groups benefiting from the sale of the “Chairman Sanders” campaign merchandise said they appreciated the surprise gift.

“We are BLOWN AWAY by the support for our Meals on Wheels program by @SenSanders,” Age Well Vermont, which helps the aging population in northwestern Vermont, said on Twitter.

Rob Meehan, the director of Feeding Chittenden, an emergency food provider in Burlington, Vt., said on Thursday that the group was “delighted by this gift.”

“Senator Sanders has been a champion for people who experience hunger,” he said, “and this gift will go directly to purchase food to be distributed through our Food Access Center.”



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