Politics

This Woman's Simple Hat Led To Death Threats From Trump Supporters

A customized baseball cap featuring the words "America Was Never Great" became a source of outrage in the angriest corners of the internet this week, prompting death threats against the 22-year-old college student who designed it.

Krystal Lake

Krystal Lake, a student in New York, who wore the hat during her weekend shift at Home Depot, found herself up against an army of social media trolls after someone posted a photo of her with the controversial apparel. The words on her hat, "America Was Never Great," — a spin on the presidential campaign slogan of Donald Trump — proved more offensive than Lake had anticipated, The New York Times reports.

"They were actually threatening to kill me over a hat," Lake told the Times. "I couldn’t believe it. I was calling my best friend and I was like, ‘How is this happening? It’s just a hat.’"

To be sure, the hat was a political statement. Lake is a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sander (I-Vt.) and invented the slogan out of frustration over Trump's repeated calls for a return to a former era of greatness in American history. She felt that Trump's slogan, "Make America Great Again," offered a limited vision of the country's potential, Staten Island Live reports.

But the symbolic gesture was lost on some Twitter and Facebook users, who spammed Lake's accounts with hateful messages, including death threats, on Wednesday. Some of Lake's critics even called the Home Depot she works at to complain after the setting of the viral photo was identified. (A spokesperson for Home Depot wouldn't comment on Lake's job status but told the Times that the hat violated company policy, which could be grounds for termination.)

Lake's viral moment has all the markings of a 2016 election story.

That a photo of a college student wearing a customized baseball cap could stoke such unfettered anger online should come as little surprise at this stage in the election season. As the three remaining presidential candidates square off on the national stage, their supporters continue to clash in unpredictable ways, especially on social media.

Lake isn't the first person to turn Trump's slogan against him. In December, a super-PAC supporting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton distributed Trump-style hats to Republican presidential candidates, each personalized with an intentionally offensive appendage, The Hill reports. The group sent a hat with the words "Make America Great Ban All Muslims" to Trump himself, a reference to the candidate's proposed ban on all Muslim immigration to the U.S.

hat

Lake said that the hate she received this week gave her a sense of accomplishment.

"I think I’m hitting them with their own medicine," she told the Times. "My whole thing was, I like being different."

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