Sen. Bernie Sanders' Inauguration Day attire has helped raise $1.8 million for charity in a week.
The Vermont senator's cozy mittens and relaxed — even detached — posture quickly went viral after he was photographed on Jan. 20. Numerous memes splashed across social media showing Sanders, 79, sitting in a folding chair at the inauguration, bundled up in a coat and mittens, with his arms and legs crossed.
The next day, Sanders and wife Jane Sanders shared that they put the image — cheekily dubbed "Chairman Sanders" — onto T-shirts, stickers, sweatshirts and other merchandise, which went up for sale on his campaign's website.
The senator's office announced Wednesday night that the merchandise had raised almost $2 million, which the Sanders couple said would go to local charities in their home state — including Vermont's local Meals on Wheels group, local senior centers, the Vermont Parent Child Network and others.
"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, The Associated Press reported. "But even this amount of money is no substitute for action by Congress, 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."
Jane, 71, wrote on Twitter: "Thank you all who helped so many people!"
The wool mittens Sanders was wearing were given to him by a Vermont elementary school teacher named Jen Ellis, according to NPR. Ellis said she gave the lawmaker the mittens more than a year ago and "had no idea" he would wear them so often.
Sanders routinely wore the mittens during his 2020 presidential campaign and the winter wear has gained attention on social media before, Ellis said.
"I'm so excited that he likes the mittens and he wants to wear them," the teacher, who knits mittens on the side, told NPR. "They are practical and warm, and they look nice."
Sanders, who has become a liberal icon in his own right amid his past two presidential campaigns, seemed unfazed by the social media chatter over his mittens-of-choice.
"It makes people aware that we make good mittens in Vermont," he told NBC News last week. "We have some good coats, as well."
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