RACINE — A photo op during House Speaker Paul Ryan’s annual visit to the Kiwanis Club Pancake Day fundraiser in Racine on Saturday created a photo that went viral on social media over the weekend.
Ryan was holding a coffee pot wearing an apron over a Packers polo shirt to mug it up with an attendee. But it’s what the attendee is wearing that’s received the most attention.
The T-shirt reads: “Repeal and go (expletive) yourself.” With a strategically placed flag on the offensive word, the slogan refers to the Republican effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
The picture, posted by Twitter user J @minnysconsin had the comment “Couple friends of the pod hanging out this morning.” The “pod” refers to the political podcast “Pod Save America,” which also sells the T-shirts to the public.
By Sunday morning, the tweet had more than 10,000 retweets and caught the attention of media outlets like the Daily Mail and Huffington Post.
With Ryan’s big smile in the photo, some Twitter followers asked if Ryan was caught unaware of the political operative’s stunt.
Christine Cullen at the Twitter handle @bitterflie said she made the photo her new screensaver tweeting, “I’m thinking that these kind of photobomb efforts might be quite the good time in 2017.”
The photobomb effort came just two days after Ryan led the effort in the House to pass legislation to dismantle Obamacare, which was met with protests from local activists outside Ryan’s Racine office.
Those activists used sticky notes with slogans and comments about Ryan as a low-tech way of blanketing Ryan’s office window with vitriol.
Whether Saturday’s photobomb is a political hack job or just a goofy internet stunt, Speaker Ryan’s office declined to comment on the Twitter trolling incident.
Paul Nolette, assistant political science professor at Marquette University, said it’s the latest example of a recent political trend seeking to embarrass either side of the aisle.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily directed by any central organization. These efforts build on other attempts to catch politicians in embarrassing moments on tape via trackers who record everything the politician says,” Nolette said.
Nollette said it forces politicians to be more careful than ever.
“It may lead them to act very blandly in public knowing that whatever they do could end up on social media. I’m guessing Speaker Ryan will be directing a staff member to be on the lookout for similar attempts at photobombing in the future,” Nolette said.
Right before the Nov. 8 election, two sisters managed to get a picture with Eric Trump, the president’s son, with a message in Spanish “Latinas against Trump.”
One that was part of a more organized effort was by Roger Stone, a Trump ally, who produced T-shirts with Bill Clinton’s face and the word “rape” on it, trying to photobomb Bill Clinton’s appearances and bring up past sexual misconduct allegations against the former president.
“Given how effective these sorts of things are in firing up the troops on the side that successfully embarrasses a political adversary, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more organized attempts to photobomb politicians like this in the future,” Nolette said.