Some television viewers were taken aback by an ad running on Fox News and other stations showing a stuffed bear coiffed like President Donald Trump.
At the request of readers, the fact-check site Snopes.com verified that the Trumpy Bear is not a satire, but a genuine stuffed toy being as a comfort doll to Trump fans. In a statement, Fox News said the ad “was a local ad purchase with the cable operator. We do not do business with them nationally.”
Exceptional Products, the toymaker, issued a “vision statement” from V.L. Lange, the designer of Trump Bear. “In 1902 the teddy bear was born and named after President Teddy Roosevelt,” Lange said. “When President Donald Trump was elected to office as the first non-politician president, I felt it was time to name an American fearless grizzly bear after our new Commander in Chief.”
Lange’s citation of the teddy bear helps illuminate the problems with the Trumpy Bear. In a much mythologized story, the teddy bear was inspired by a hunting trip by President Theodore Roosevelt to Mississippi in 1902, when guide Holt Collier captured a bear for Roosevelt to shoot. As HuffPost chronicles:
Before the president could get there, though, the animal grabbed one of Collier’s hunting dogs. To protect his dogs and himself but also to ensure the president could take the fatal shot, Collier rounded up the bear (in part by hitting it on the skull with his gun) and tied it to a tree.
When Roosevelt finally arrived, the president refused to kill the captured animal, and according to Washington Post reporters who were also there, he told his hunting crew to “put it out of its misery.” Some sources suggest that Roosevelt knew he would receive more backlash for his love for hunting if he killed the bear in such circumstances.
The incident inspired a famous Washington Post cartoon by Clifford Berryman showing Roosevelt nobly refusing to kill the cub; it elides the fact that one of Roosevelt’s companions then killed the bear with a hunting knife. The cartoon inspired the merchants Morris and Rose Michtom to create the teddy bear, which became a bestselling toy.
Like its ancestor, the Trumpy Bear becomes more sinister if you understand its origins. The ad begins on an ominous note. “A storm is coming,” a husky voice says. “You cannot defeat the storm. I am the storm.”
What does a storm have to do with stuffed bears? The answer is disturbing. Those words are the slogan used by QAnon conspiracy theorists, who believe Trump is a heroic figure fighting a secret network of pedophiles that control Hollywood, the Democratic Party, and the so-called Deep State. The Trump Bear is the cuddly avatar for one of the most unhinged factions of American political life.