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24 Jul, 2008 04:59

Obama is ‘slave’ to his own popularity

With temperatures rising in the Big Apple, so too is the popularity of presidential hopeful Barack Obama. From posters to clothing, Obama the politician is becoming Obama the brand. And it's not just his supporters who are trading on his name.

Obamamania has become so contagious that even staunch opponents like clothing designer Doron Braunshtein are cashing in – but not without controversy. Braunshtein, also known as Apollo Braun, has garnered widespread media attention and death threats for his “Obama Is My Slave” T-shirts. In a racially sensitive America, where people of African origin endured centuries of slavery, this slogan is close to the bone.

Other T-shirts in the store saying “Jews Against Obama” and “Who Killed Obama?” sell for up to $US 250. Braun says he trademarked the phrases which he says have nothing to do with race but have everything to do with Obama's rumoured ties to Islam – a myth which has been debunked.

“I do not like him. I do not think he is good for the Jews and for Israel. I don't think he's good for America,” says Braunshtein.

Even so, the controversy of has been great for business. Braunshtein's tiny Manhattan Boutique has made thousands of dollars selling the ‘offensive’ Obama T-shirts.

Celebrity publicist Couri Hay says Braunshtein has just proved the age-old marketing cliché that any publicity is good publicity: “Controversy equals sales. Scandal equals sales. And interest and excitement, and this sort of thing, generates sales.”
But some New Yorkers living in the melting pot of America say the T-shirts are just plain disgusting.

“It's pretty gross. Calling anybody a slave is disrespectful whether it's Obama or anyone else,” said one passer-by.