NEW YORK - The American political system sees its fair share of mudslinging, accusation and incendiary statements—especially during a presidential election campaign. An Israeli fashion designer residing in New York has, however, managed to stir up heated controversy in the city even in the midst of a hotly contested presidential campaign.
The brouhaha began several weeks ago, when the American press began to examine the possibility that Senator Barack Obama might be a target for assassination should he win the Democratic Party’s nomination for the presidency. Obama is believed to have a real chance at becoming the first African-American US president, but many Americans are less than thrilled by this likely scenario.
Doron Braunshtein, an Israeli fashion designer and owner of the Apollo Braun fashion boutique in New York, decided to capitalize on this sensational Obama story by creating his own line of T-shirts bearing the logo “Who killed Obama?”
In creating this controversial clothing line, the designer had hoped to wed the political and fashion scenes, and comment on various societal phenomenon surrounding the heated election campaign. The “who shot Obama?” slogan is a throw back to popular 80’s TV show, Dallas, which featured the immortal line “who shot J.R.?”
What was supposed to be a limited clothing line for New York’s youth soon caught fire, however, and became a fashion phenomenon all throughout the United States. With success came fierce debate and public scrutiny, as millions of Americans saw the shirts as blatant incitement against Obama and as a call for his assassination.
The story received massive media coverage on TV, internet websites and in the US press. Photographers swooped on Braunshtein’s store hoping for a shot of the damning shirts and hoodies.
Since everyone truly has their 15 minutes of fame, suffice it to say that all the Obama shirts very quickly sold out. Braunshtein had to quickly produce fresh stocks of the coveted T-shirts, sported by youngsters all throughout New York.
Not all has been rosy for Braunshtein, however. Ironically, the shirts have lead to numerous death threats against the designer and a multitude of angry phone calls to his store and home. Braunshtein’s boutique window has also been spray painted and vandalized by people enraged by his clothing line. Conversely, many see these shirts as a defiant statement decrying American preoccupation with skin color as part of the presidential campaign, as well as the looming threats on Senator Obama’s life.
One owner of the Obama T-shirt, Amy Weinstein, stated that she had purchased the shirt in order to “‘challenge those who are wholly preoccupied with Obama’s color, which has zero relevance to the election campaign, and to awaken the American public to this very ugly reality.”