Editor’s note: This post contains language and photos some readers may find inappropriate.
I’ve covered presidential campaigns for decades. I’ve never had to bleep — or drop an asterisk into — a candidate’s speech.
Until this year.
Take this Donald Trump quote from a rally in Virginia:
“We’re gonna win with the military. We’re gonna knock the s*** out of ISIS. We’re gonna knock the s*** out of them.”
That’s one of the big lines of a typical Trump speech. Then there was the time he didn’t actually drop the F-bomb. He just mouthed it to the camera.
“We’re gonna have businesses that used to be in New Hampshire that are now in Mexico come back to New Hampshire and you can tell them to go …” he paused to mouth the word, “… themselves.”
He seems to know his language can pack a punch.
“I’m not allowed to use any bad words,” Trump said at a Pittsburgh rally. “If I had used the A-word, they’d say, ‘Ooh, Trump used foul language … horrible, horrible.”
That’s from the stage at his rallies. Outside, the expletives are on a whole different level.
At a Trump rally at the Fox Theater in Atlanta this week, I came across a T-shirt vendor working the long line of people who were waiting for the doors to open. It was 8:30 in the morning. The front of the shirt he was selling featured photos of Hillary Clinton and Monica Lewinsky and a vulgar phrase: “Hillary s**** But not like Monica.”
And the back of the shirt — in huge, unavoidable letters — says: “Trump That B****.” It’s a hot seller at the rallies.
Around the corner and down the block, I found TaMara Moore standing outside a van loaded with shirts. One of his shirts says — again in giant letters: “Donald F*****’ Trump.”
And the back: “If you don’t bleed red, white and blue take your b**** a** home.”
Over the course of the campaign, these shirts have gone almost mainstream. Early on, vendors sold them way out in the parking lot or off to the side somewhere. Not anymore.
Moore said his shirts don’t cross a line. When I asked him if the message was appropriate, he said, “Freedom of speech, baby.”
He also said families buy the shirts, even with their kids in tow.
“You’d be surprised how many people have a dislike for Hillary,” he said. “I was a little shocked.”
But not every one approves, including another vendor, Claude Stafford of Sarasota, Fla.
“I’d have to pass on those,” Stafford said of the crude T-shirts. I asked him why.
“Just not my character. You know, you see kids and stuff, and they say, ‘Mommy, what’s that say?’ I just can’t do it,” he said.
Stafford was pulling a red wagon full of more traditional fare: shirts and hats that say “President Trump 2016.”
I also came across 24-year-old McKinley Witzler waiting in line. He argued that the shirts with rude slogans are no different from what you see at an Atlanta Falcons football game, for example. Still, he said he doesn’t approve of that Hillary and Monica shirt.
“The content of the shirt, it’s ridiculous. It’s over the top,” he said. “It’s demeaning to women.”
But he says the attention it gets is overblown. How about that other one, that says “Donald F*****’ Trump?”
“Would I wear that shirt personally? Probably not. That shirt, I don’t really have a problem with though,” he said. “If you’re that enthusiastic about Trump, then that’s OK with me.”