Bernie Sanders mittens meme raises big bucks for charity

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Former presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) sits in the bleachers on Capitol Hill before Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th US President on January 20, 2021, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC.

Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images

They were smitten with Bernie’s mittens.

Sen. Bernie Sanders said Wednesday that sales of merchandise featuring a viral image of the Vermont independent wearing mittens at the inauguration of President Joe Biden raised a whopping $1.8 million for charities in just five days.

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

A photo of Sanders sitting alone in a chair with his legs crossed, bundled up in a parka and wearing a chunky pair of hand-knit mittens at Biden’s inauguration became a social media sensation.

The mittens Sanders wore were made by Vermont school teacher Jen Ellis from repurposed wool sweaters and fleece created from recycled plastic bottles.

The image of Sanders has been used in countless memes showing him in such unlikely places as at family barbecues, in a mixed-martial arts brawl, on a bench with the movie character Forrest Gump and next to the American flag on the moon.

After the image went viral, Sanders’ campaign store offered for sale a “Chairman Sanders” collection, including sweatshirts and t-shirts featuring the image.

Proceeds from sales of the merchandise will benefit charitable organizations in Vermont that focus on hunger relief and other social issues.

Getty Images also will donate proceeds from the photo’s licensing agreement to Meals on Wheels America, according to Sanders.

Burton Snowboards, which makes the brown jacket worn by Sanders at the inauguration, donated 50 jackets to the Burlington Department for Children and Families in honor of the senator. 

While Sanders, who is the incoming chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, was pleased with the nearly $2 million haul from the sale of merchandise so far, the self-described democratic socialist couldn’t resist highlighting his belief that government, not private charities, should be the primary safety net for Americans.

“But even this amount of money is no substitute for action by Congress,” Sanders said in his statement.

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