Obama Mints, a College Store and the First Amendment

August 5, 2011

The bookstore at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville has stopped selling mints that poke fun at President Obama, The Knoxville News Sentinel reported. The mints feature an image similar to Obama's '08 campaign posters, with the tag line: "This is change? Disappoint/Mints." The mints were pulled from sale after State Representative Joe Armstrong complained about them. While Armstrong is a Democrat, he said he would have complained about mints mocking Republicans too. He told the News Sentinel that there were no First Amendment issues at play. "With a book or something of that nature, then fine, but that [the mints] is sort of a discretionary product they have," Armstrong said. "It wasn't viewpoint neutral. Very specifically insulting to the president."

Others disagree about the free speech issues. Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the university, said: "Let me make very clear, there is no candy exception to the First Amendment," he said. "Free speech is free speech. If you make fun of the president in a mint, it is just as much free speech as it is if you make fun of the president in a political cartoon."

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