A “Lyin’ Hillary Doll” displayed next to a “Make America Great Again” sign in a country store in Smithfield, Rhode Island, prompted a firestorm of disapproval from Hillary supporters online this week. Inside the Pleasant View Orchards store the doll dangles from a metal hook, which detractors say is offensive.
The store, owned by 81-year-old Tony Polseno Jr. and his wife Camella, has been a fixture in Smithfield for 47 years. They sell apples, pumpkins, apple cider, donuts, fudge, flowers, honey and more. And now a media backlash over their “Lyin’ Hillary” doll and Trump support is threatening their livelihood.
Squeeze the 11.5-inch, pant-suited Hillary plush toy — available online for $24.99 — and “she’ll tell 18 unbelievable tales,” according to www.lyinhillarydoll.com. The doll says: “Not a single one of my emails was classified.” Or “I don’t believe I ever lied — to the public.” Or, “When I got off the plane in Bosnia I had to dodge sniper fire.”
Facebook postings and Yelp customer reviews in Rhode Island are taking the owners of the orchard to task for the doll’s placement, describing it as “a despicable display of misogyny,” a “public lynching display” and as being “hung by a noose.” Some posts urge potential customers to stay away.
Polseno told the Journal that “everyone who comes in here loves it.” If you don’t like it, “then look the other way.” He said a customer purchased the doll online “and gave it to me.” According to the Journal, the Polsenos were attacked online back in September too, for “alleged hate speech,” due to their “Make America Great again” sign.
“One lady bought some apples — Macouns — and she says, ‘oh, if I knew that was there, I wouldn’t have bought these,'” Polseno told WLNE-TV. “I said, ‘lady…come back and get your money back — no problem! She ain’t given up them Macouns. I got the best Macouns in the state!”
The 81-year-old was unaware of the online complaints because he doesn’t use computers, but the local media filled him in. He said the comments reflect a misunderstanding.
“They’re making it look like I want to hang people, he said. “I don’t do that … We don’t want to be mean. We don’t want to offend anyone. If we offend anyone, I’ll take it down.”
Polseno told a reporter from WLNE-TV, “I put it up there, I don’t know!”
The controversy began after a woman posted on Facebook about the doll on Tuesday.
The “doll of a presidential candidate being hung” is “offensive and not appropriate for children — or really anyone,” wrote Amanda L. from Providence, on Yelp.
“I cannot support a bigoted business such as this one. Having a doll of Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, with a noose around her neck? That is not only so disrespectful but misogynistic and hateful,” wrote ‘Ellie B.’ in Providence. ” … Please patronize the good folks. Hate does not deserve their money.”
Polseno played a message for the Journal that was left on the store answering machine by a man calling “all the way from Key West.” The caller said in part: “You should be ashamed of yourselves for having a doll hanging. … I hope your business goes down.”
Polseno said, “Don’t worry about putting me out of business over a doll. They’ll need an ax.” He told the Journal “he has a solid client base for half a century.”
When reporters descended on the store, Camella Polseno chided her husband, saying, “I told you to get rid of the doll!” She told a reporter her husband “didn’t mean to hang it by the neck.”
Mrs. Polseno said the Trump sign “represents not slaughtering, not aborting babies,” and Trump “represents hope.” Hillary Clinton “represents the elite,” and Trump “represents the middle class, the upper middle class.”
She added, “That gentleman that made that terrible phone call to us — they have to know, my husband is 81 years old. We’ve been in business almost 47 years. We contribute a lot of tax money to the town. We contribute a lot of tax money to the state. For him to say he hopes our business goes down, I think is just very deplorable.”
Tony Polseno characterized the social media outrage as a cyber attack. “Why don’t they come here and tell me? I think this is a cyber attack,” he said. “I don’t know these people. I never seen them. What they’re telling you is BS. I never said anything to anybody.”
The Providence Journal asked readers in a poll if they were offended by Polseno’s “Lyin’ Hillary” doll. Only 12 percent said they were offended, while 88 percent had no problem with it.
If you’re looking for a Lyin’ Hillary doll for that special someone on your Christmas list, good luck. A customer service agent from www.lyinhillarydoll.com told the Journal, “They sold out the day after the election. The only thing we’re doing now, if it doesn’t work or someone wants to return it, we will accommodate them. It’s a gag. It’s a joke. It’s funny. For those who want to poke a little bit it.”
Lyin’ Hillary’s can still be purchased on Ebay for an inflated price.