“It’s like passing out a pen or a calendar with the logo on them, but people can get more use from a mask right now,” said Cranston Mayoral Candidate Michael Farina.
Some are calling the idea “appalling” and in “bad taste.” Others call the idea “outstanding” and “genius.” Are branded face masks destined to become the campaign button of 2020, or will voters recoil at the idea of a candidate exploiting the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic?
Cranston City Council President Michael Farina is running for Mayor of his city as a Republican. On Saturday, he released a Facebook post with a picture of himself wearing a cloth, surgical style face mask emblazoned with the words “FARINA MAYOR.”
“A new world we’re in and we need to be prepared. If [you’re] in need of a few washable masks please DM me or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org,” wrote Farina. “[B]y the way, these are free.”
The response from Farina’s followers on Facebook was enthusiastic.
- “I would like one! That is outstanding.”
- “Great Idea! Best of Luck!”
Others on Facebook were less impressed.
- “This is gross… A pandemic isn’t a branding opportunity.”
- “So tacky!! Make them and give them away that’s fine… but as campaign material?”
Can you help us?
Funding for our reporting relies entirely on the generosity of readers like you. Our independence allows us to write stories that hold RI state and local government officials accountable. All of our stories are free and available to everyone. But your support is essential to keeping Steve and Will on the beat, covering the costs of reporting many stories in a single day. If you are able to, please support Uprise RI. Every contribution, big or small is so valuable to us. You provide the motivation and financial support to keep doing what we do. Thank you.
UpriseRI contacted Farina on Facebook and asked him about the masks, which Farina said were made by a friend who “has a FDA approved factory in Guatemala.”
UpriseRI: One Cranston resident messaged me that they finds the mask and the messaging “extremely distasteful.” Do you have a comment?
Farina: We’re giving out free masks for people who need them. Not sure how that is distasteful, but people are welcome to their opinion.
UpriseRI: Are these masks hospital grade, or just cloth face coverings?
Farina: [They are] cloth face coverings for those of us that are not on the front lines of the pandemic – washable, also sanitized.
UpriseRI: The person who alerted me to this said that it gives the appearance that you are profiting from a pandemic. Your thoughts?
Farina: Well since they are free for people, not sure how we’re profiting. We’re giving them away and delivering them to people. If we can help the pandemic from spreading we’re doing our job.
UpriseRI: At the very least, you’ll get some media attention for your campaign, which is a kind of profit.
Farina: I would consider that awareness, since the campaign paid for them. It’s like passing out a pen or a calendar with the logo on them but people can get more use from a mask right now.
UpriseRI: Isn’t it like putting a bumper sticker on somebody’s face?
Farina: No, it’s more like a hat, reusable bag or a t-shirt. Like I said, masks are needed more right now and the more we help, the more we can flatten the curve.