Obama DisappointMINTS Pulled from Shelves at University of Tennessee

by Nat Brown

If you have any friends (especially liberal ones) with bad breath, you may want to consider these:

If you’re a student at the University of Tennessee, however, you’re going to have a problem getting a hold of them:

Breath mints are usually refreshing, but a Knoxville legislator believes a University of Tennessee bookstore’s selling of novelty candies mocking President Barack Obama stinks.

UT officials pulled the mints poking fun at Obama from store shelves after state

Rep. Joe Armstrong, a Democrat, visited the bookstore and told the director he found the satirical mints offensive.

“When you operate on state and federal dollars, you ought to be sensitive to those type of politically specific products,” Armstrong said. “If it was a private entity or corporation or store, (that’s different), but this is a state university. We certainly don’t want in any way to put the university in a bad light by having those political (products), particularly aimed at defaming the president.”

The tin can of mints has a blue and red image of the president with the words: “This is change? Disappointmints.”

Armstrong said he got a call from a student who was bothered by the depiction of the president, and the legislator followed up Tuesday with a visit to the bookstore in the basement of the University Center. There, he purchased a box of the $2.99 mints and had a conversation with director David Kent, who ultimately removed product from the shelves. About 30 tins were removed.

Many have criticized the mints’ removal, including a constitutional law professor at the university, who sees it as a form of censorship:

“Let me make very clear, there is no candy exception to the First Amendment,” said Glenn Reynolds, who teaches constitutional law at UT. “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.”

While citizens have the right to express disapproval of a message on a tin can of breath mints, that opinion has more heft when it’s coming from a government official, Reynolds said, calling it “a species of censorship.”

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