Hillary Clinton has recently claimed unfair treatment in the media.

“They were selling T-shirts and mugs at the Republican [National] Convention with Trump holding my head. Nobody said a word. Not a word!”
- Hillary Clinton: 'Nobody Said A Word' When It Was My Fake Severed Head - HuffPost

If true, she may have been treated unfairly. But that's the catch. Is it true that there were t-shirts and mugs with a picture showing Trump holding Clinton's severed head at the RNC?

  • 8
    No one saying a word about this is going to make it really hard to corroborate. – Paul Draper Sep 17 '17 at 2:24
  • If the image was so common, there has to be CNN video of it, since they covered every Trump utterance right through the RNC convention...yet, where is it? CNN wouldn't hesitate to show an endless loop for the next 24 hrs. – Jay H Apr 4 at 14:13
up vote 59 down vote accepted

This is a claim where we will likely only get circumstantial evidence for either side. We already have the statement of one reporter on Twitter stating that they didn't see these shirts in the convention and a radio host wondering if they may have been sold outside.

Clinton brought this issue up in response to an image by Kathy Griffin which she says is "a play on Perseus holding the head of Medusa".

The shirt motif in question is this one, also depicting Medusa, but with Clinton in her place:

image depicting Perseus holding the decapitated head of Medusa, with Trumps image superimposed over Perseus and Clintons face over Medusa

Trump Perseus holding the severed head of Clinton Medusa T-shirt

Mary Beard says in the London Review of Books that this was an often-used depiction:

This scene of Perseus-Trump brandishing the dripping, oozing head of Medusa-Clinton was very much part of the everyday, domestic American decorative world: you could buy it on T-shirts and tank tops, on coffee mugs, on laptop sleeves and tote bags (sometimes with the logo triumph, sometimes trump).

It is still available in various formats online (eg here, here, or here). The timestamped comments on the third link go back to at least January 2016, so the shirt existed before the RNC convention in July 2016.

Sexist merchandising was sold outside of the RNC, which for example called Clinton a "bitch", insulted her looks, or depicted her as the victim of physical violence.

While there is no proof whether or not this exact shirt was sold, it is known that this shirt exists, and it is known that similar sexist and violent merchandise was sold.

  • 17
    I know it is not in the question's title, but the question's body clearly adds the qualifier 'at the RNC.' I don't think there is any doubt that you can buy a picture of trump holding Clinton's severed head. You apparently can get Clinton holding Trump's head as far back as June 2016. I do not think this answers the question. – kingledion Sep 15 '17 at 15:08
  • 8
    @kingledion Right, I did say that this is circumstantial evidence (the shirt does exist - and existed back then -, and there was violent and sexist imagery at the RNC in general), but not definitive. I think it's still more than the other answer, which is just one journalist on twitter saying that they personally didn't see it. – tim Sep 15 '17 at 16:08
  • 22
    "This scene of Perseus-Trump brandishing the dripping, oozing head of Medusa-Clinton was very much part of the everyday, domestic American decorative world" That's utter nonsense and makes that source seem not very credible. That such shirts existed is quite different from them being "very much part of the everyday, domestic American decorative world." – reirab Sep 15 '17 at 16:26
  • 17
    I mean, what American doesn't have a dripping oozing severed head lying around as decoration. – aw04 Sep 15 '17 at 17:59
  • 6
    Insofar as many rumors that need a skeptical eye are partial truths that have been manipulated or confused by time and human error, and are only properly understood by investigating their broader origins and context rather than specific instances, I think this is a very appropriate answer. To only investigate "at the RNC" is to cede ground to those who would use a single technically accurate criticism in order to spuriously dismiss the broader point. This is like the "did Marx say..." question, where slavish obedience to the specifics does a disservice to everyone. – zibadawa timmy Sep 16 '17 at 4:28

This Twitchy article quotes a tweet from Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale denying the claim:

I inspected anti-Clinton merchandise very hard in 2016, and I didn't see any such t-shirts around the RNC. Certainly not IN the convention. [...]

It also quotes a tweet from a conservative talk radio host, Jason Rantz denying the claim.

While absence of proof isn't proof of absence, in this case I think it's strong evidence. Given how unlikely, if this did happen, there would be no evidence, the lack of evidence is rather suspicious.

  • 29
    Welcome to Skeptics! You are right that proving absence is difficult. Our fallback here is to quote an expert who has looked and found no evidence, which isn't perfect, but it is the best we can hope for. That's exactly what you've done here. +1. – Oddthinking Sep 15 '17 at 5:48
  • 13
    I agree that proving absence is difficult, and that this is circumstantial evidence against the claim. But saying that this is "strong evidence" seems like a stretch. It's one reporter saying on twitter that he didn't see these in the convention (I don't think Clintons claim is this narrow), and a radio host agreeing with that (again on twitter), but wondering if the shirts were sold around the convention. As these sorts of shirt do exist, I don't think it is out of the question that a vendor at/outside of the convention might have sold them. – tim Sep 15 '17 at 10:47
  • 1
    ...Is the claim that this was official party merchandise inside of where they hosted the convention? I think this answer might be addressing it's interpretation of the Clinton quote, not the question asked by OP (which seems a bit more broad). I have to agree that it is extremely hard (probably impossible) to prove the absence of such merchandise; especially given how easy it is to make custom mugs and shirts now. I'm honestly not sure a Twitter quote from someone who "inspected anti-Clinton merchandise very hard" is a great way to disprove that. – JMac Sep 15 '17 at 11:16
  • 1
    @JMac According to OPs source, "they" are "unofficial vendors" (presumably that would mean that "at" means "around"/"outside", not "in"). I don't know if that is their interpretation or Clintons claim; the interview snipped doesn't make it clear to me either way (it's just a short snipped though), and I haven't read Clintons book, where she might have been more explicit. – tim Sep 15 '17 at 11:44
  • 2
    @Acccumulation But why would you have heard about this specific shirt at the time? It's just one in a long line of violent and sexist imagery (of which there is photographic proof), and doesn't really stand out. Afaik, Clinton only braught this specific shirt up now in reaction to the Griffin photo. – tim Sep 15 '17 at 16:13

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .