Bernie Sanders raises nearly $2 million from inauguration mittens meme for Vermont charities

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Sen. Bernie Sanders became an internet sensation for his sartorial choices at last week’s inauguration of Joe Biden. And now Sanders has cashed in on the meme — for charity.

The Vermont senator announced Wednesday that he has raised $1.8 million for various Vermont charities through the sale of limited-edition merchandise featuring a now iconic photo of Sanders seated at the inauguration, arms crossed and wearing a green parka and oversize mittens that were knitted by a Vermont schoolteacher.

The image quickly became a meme, with Photoshopped versions of Sanders sitting in an array of absurd locations, like on the moon, ringside for Ali vs. Frazier or next to Jesus at the Last Supper.

Sanders’s staff struck a licensing agreement with Getty Images to put the famous photo on T-shirts, sweatshirts and stickers, all of which sold out within minutes. (Getty will donate its proceeds from the license to charity as well.)

Bernie Sanders
Sen. Bernie Sanders at the inauguration of President Biden. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

The funds raised will go to groups including Meals on Wheels, Feeding Chittenden, the Vermont Parent Child Center Network, the Chill Foundation, the Bi-State Primary Care Association and senior centers throughout the state.

In a statement, Sanders said he and his wife, Jane, 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.”

“But even this amount of money is no substitute for action by Congress,” he added in reference to ongoing coronavirus stimulus negotiations, “and I will be doing everything I can in Washington to make sure working people in Vermont and across the country get the relief they need in the middle of the worst crisis we’ve faced since the Great Depression.”

The jacket Sanders wore in the photo was designed by Burlington-based Burton Snowboards as part of a limited-edition clothing line honoring the Vermont senator and featuring his image on the back.

The mittens were made from repurposed wool from sweaters by Jen Ellis, a teacher from Essex Junction, Vt., who gave them to Sanders as a gift. She was surprised when she saw him wearing them on the campaign trail.

When Sanders was first informed that his choice of outfit on Inauguration Day had become a viral sensation, he immediately turned the spotlight on the Vermonters who made them.

“It makes people aware that we make good mittens in Vermont,” he told reporters. “We have some good coats as well.”


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