F-Bomb On A T-Shirt: At Trump Rallies, Profanity Comes Onstage And Off

Jun 17, 2016
Originally published on June 20, 2016 10:11 am

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."

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Political campaigns are almost always a rough business - attack ads demonizing opponents. Even by those age-old standards the Trump campaign is breaking new ground. R-rated language is the norm, including from the candidate himself. NPR's Don Gonyea has this report, and we should note it contains adult language and themes.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: In this story, you're going to hear a lot of this.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLEEP)

GONYEA: I've covered presidential campaigns for decades. I've never bleeped a candidate until this year.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: We're going to win with the military. We're going to knock the [expletive] out of ISIS.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: We're going to knock the [expletive] out of them.

(APPLAUSE)

GONYEA: That's one of the big lines of a typical Trump speech. Examples abound. Take this one which technically doesn't need bleeping, but on the video you can read his lips.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: We're going to 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 themselves.

(APPLAUSE)

GONYEA: And there are moments like this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: I'm not allowed to use any bad words, by the way. If I use even a little bad word like I almost used the A-word (unintelligible). But I almost used it. If I used it, they'd say these people - the dishonest media, the world's most dishonest people - if I used the A-word they'd say, oh, Trump used foul language, horrible, horrible, horrible.

GONYEA: So that's all from the stage at Trump rallies. Now let's go outside.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: How about it, guys?

GONYEA: A T-shirt vendor works the long line of people waiting for doors to open at the Trump rally at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta this week. It's 8:30 in the morning. The T-shirt he's selling features photos of Hillary Clinton and Monica Lewinsky on the front and a vulgar phrase.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Turn that shirt around.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Hillary [expletive] but not the way Monica does.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Hillary [expletive] but not the way Monica does.

GONYEA: The back of the shirt says in huge letters Trump that - the third word rhymes with witch. It's a hot seller at Trump rallies.

Around the corner and down the block, I found TaMara Moore standing outside a van loaded with shirts. One of his says - again in giant letters - Donald [expletive] Trump. The expletive starts with F.

TAMARA MOORE: We got Donald [expletive] Trump. If you don't bleed red, white and blue take your [expletive] home.

GONYEA: Over the course of the campaign, the shirts have gone almost mainstream. Early on, vendors sold them way out in the parking lot or off to the side somewhere, not anymore.

OK. So you got to admit. That's kind of a raw message.

MOORE: Yeah.

GONYEA: Is it appropriate?

MOORE: Yeah. Freedom of speech, baby.

GONYEA: Does it cross a line?

MOORE: No, not to me.

GONYEA: Do, like, families buy them?

MOORE: Yes, with their kids. You'd be surprised at how many people have a dislike for Hillary. I was a little shocked.

GONYEA: Not everyone approves, including another vendor, Claude Stafford of Sarasota, Fla.

CLAUDE STAFFORD: I'd have to pass on those.

GONYEA: Why?

STAFFORD: It's just not my character. You see kids and stuff and then they're going, mommy, what's that say? I just - I can't do it.

GONYEA: Stafford is pulling a red wagon full of more traditional fare - shirts and hats that say President Trump 2016.

Twenty-four-year-old McKinley Witzler is waiting in line. He argues that the shirts with rude slogans are no different than what you see at, say, an Atlanta Falcons football game. He doesn't approve of the Hillary-Monica shirt.

MCKINLEY WITZLER: The content of the shirt is ridiculous. It's over-the-top. It's demeaning to women.

GONYEA: But he does say that shirt gets way too much attention. How about that other one, the one that says Donald [expletive] Trump?

WITZLER: Would I wear that shirt personally? Probably not. That shirt I don't really have a problem with, though. If you're that enthusiastic about Trump, then that's OK with me.

GONYEA: Talking Trump and T-shirts, Don Gonyea, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.