SMITHFIELD — Inside the Pleasant View Orchards store, the “Lyin’ Hillary Doll” stirring online outrage dangles from a metal hook looped through green yarn. A Trump sign taped next to it proclaims, “Make America Great Again.”
Squeeze the 11.5-inch, pant-suited Hillary plush toy — available online for $24.99 — and “she’ll tell 18 unbelievable tales,” according to www.lyinhillarydoll.com. The doll says: “Not a single one of my emails was classified.” Or “I don’t believe I ever lied — to the public.” Or, “When I got off the plane in Bosnia I had to dodge sniper fire.”
Facebook postings and Yelp customer reviews in Rhode Island are taking the owners of the orchard to task for the doll’s placement, describing it as “a despicable display of misogyny,” a “public lynching display” and as being “hung by a noose.” Some posts urge potential customers to stay away.
Pleasant View owner Tony Polseno Jr., 81, took offense Wednesday in his store, which is festooned for the holidays. “Everyone who comes in here loves it.” If you don’t like it, “then look the other way.”
Polseno said a customer purchased the doll online “and gave it to me.”
The store, a longtime fixture on Pleasant View Avenue, sells apples, pumpkins, apple cider donuts, fudge and flowers, honey and more.
Polseno said the online complaints reflect a misunderstanding.
“They’re making it look like I want to hang people. I don’t do that. … We don’t want to be mean. We don’t want to offend anyone. If we offend anyone, I’ll take it down.”
Online comments mounted after a woman’s Facebook posting Tuesday about the doll. The Journal was unable to reach the woman Wednesday. Many commenters said they have not been to the store.
The “doll of a presidential candidate being hung” is “offensive and not appropriate for children — or really anyone,” wrote Amanda L. from Providence, on Yelp.
“I cannot support a bigoted business such as this one. Having a doll of Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, with a noose around her neck? That is not only so disrespectful but misogynistic and hateful,” wrote ‘Ellie B.’ in Providence. ” … Please patronize the good folks. Hate does not deserve their money.”
Polseno said he was unaware of online comments because he doesn’t use computers. He played a message left on the store answering machine, which he first heard Wednesday, left by a man calling “all the way from Key West.”
The caller said in part: “You should be ashamed of yourselves for having a doll hanging … I hope your business goes down.”
Polseno said, “Don’t worry about putting me out of business over a doll. They’ll need an axe.” He said he has a solid client base for half a century.
Camella Polseno chided her husband when a reporter visited the store, saying, “I told you to get rid of the doll.” She said her husband “didn’t mean to hang it by the neck.”
But Camella Polseno said she also “wanted to punch” the Hillary doll. The Trump sign “represents not slaughtering, not aborting babies,” and Trump “represents hope.” Hillary Clinton “represents the elite,” and Trump “represents the middle class, the upper middle class.”
She added, “That gentleman that made that terrible phone call to us — they have to know, my husband is 81 years old. We’ve been in business almost 47 years. We contribute a lot of tax money to the town. We contribute a lot of tax money to the state. For him to say he hopes our business goes down, I think is just very deplorable.”
A man who answered the customer service line at www.lyinhillarydoll.com said, “They sold out the day after the election. The only thing we’re doing now, if it doesn’t work or someone wants to return it, we will accommodate them. It’s a gag. It’s a joke. It’s funny. For those who want to poke a little bit it.”
This is not the first time Pleasant View Orchards and its owners have been subject to what Tony Polseno calls “cyber attack.” Online comments in September attacked the owner for alleged hate speech: The Journal was unable to reach a woman whose comments provoked online discussion.
Tony Polseno said, “Why don’t they come here and tell me? I think this is a cyber attack. I don’t know these people. I never seen them. What they’re telling you is BS. I never said anything to anybody.”
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