The University of Tennessee bookstore in Knoxville has decided to stop selling packages of breath mints poking fun at President Obama after a Democratic lawmaker complained.
The product is called, “Disappoint-mints” and features a blue and red picture of the president on the label.
State Rep. Joe Armstrong told The Knoxville News Sentinel he found the breath mints offensive.
He said a student had notified him of the mints so he decided to go to the bookstore to investigate.
He said the breath freshener was “very specifically insulting to the president” and said the university should be sensitive to what he called “politically specific products.”
But others find the outrage over “Disappoint-mints” to be curiously strong – suggesting that removing the products is a form of censorship.
“Let me make very clear, there is no candy exception to the First Amendment,” Glenn Reynolds, a constitutional law professor, told the newspaper.
“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.”
The bookstore manager said the shop previously carried breath mints satirizing former President George W. Bush – but no one ever complained.
Tennessee Republicans were quick to pounce on the Democrats for what they called hypocrisy.
“It’s certainly a disappointment and an embarrassment that Democrats would choose to try and limit free speech on a college campus,” said Chris Devaney, chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party
“They can’t take criticism of their president. The bottom line is that Democrats were out of line.”
Devaney said he had not sampled the Obama-themed breath mints, but in light of the controversy he may reconsider.
“I think I’m going to go get some,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.