It didn't take long for that historic mugshot of former president Donald J. Trump to become a rallying cry — plus a whole lot of new merchandise, for both his political supporters and his enemies.
Within minutes of his plane lifting off the runway in Atlanta following his arrest and booking Thursday at the Fulton County Jail, the first president in history to pose for a mug shot was using it to raise money.
On his campaign website, Trump featured the jailhouse photo along with a plea for contributions.
"It's quite brilliant. His understanding of human behavior and his ability to conquest what may seem a nail in the coffin. He's able to subvert it in such a way that mobilizes his people," said Marcus Collins, a marketing professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.
Trump also posted the mug shot to his nearly 87 million followers on X, an account he hasn't used since January 2021, when the platform was still called Twitter.
Political observers say Mr. Trump is partly adopting the strategy that there's no such thing as bad publicity.
"Johnny Cash had a famous mug shot that's still on T-shirts," said Chris McMurray, an author and businessman who once went viral for declining to host a campaign event for Joe Biden in 2012.
"He capitalizes on every opportunity," McMurray said of Trump. "And the more his name is out there, the stronger his base gets."
Within minutes of the mug shot's release Thursday night, internet entrepreneurs were also using it to make a few bucks.
A search for "Trump mug shot" on Etsy on Friday revealed more than 4,700 products, including T-shirts and hoodies, stickers, coasters, and of course plenty of "mug shot mugs."
Collins says all the Trump merch perhaps has a deeper purpose: Helping people with wildly different political views make sense of the world.
"What may seem like a shame or disgrace for others, may seem like pride for another group of people. Which one is it? It all depends," Collins said. "I don't think we've ever seen this in politics in this way."
No matter how Donald Trump's mug shot gets used or how much money it makes, it seems clear it will be a photo long remembered.
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