At the end of a disaster of a first presidential debate on Tuesday, President Donald Trump invoked our city, saying “Bad things happen in Philadelphia."
To no one’s surprise, loyal Philadelphians responded in force on social media. Some replied with serious offense, while others made a joke of the president’s rambling remarks, which were false in their description of poll watchers being blocked from the first day of in-person early voting in the city.
Political officials weighed in, including councilmember Jamie Gauthier and U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle.
Gauthier, a Democrat representing West and Southwest Philadelphia, said Trump needs to “keep Philly out of his mouth” and vowed not to let him intimidate voters.
Added Boyle, a Democratic congressman: “Great things happen in Philly." He went on to list the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution — and of course the Flyers' viral mascot, Gritty.
City Commissioner Al Schmidt, a Republican who oversees elections and voter registration, echoed that message, keeping his list of “good things” short with just a photo of the Constitution.
Kyle Lowry, the Philadelphia native and former Villanova basketball star who now plays for the Toronto Raptors, chimed in and urged fellow Philadelphians to vote.
Philly sports fans also got in on the action, joking that Trump’s message was a reminder of the recent failings of the city’s beloved sports teams. For some, it triggered reminders that the Eagles have so far looked pitiful, starting the season with an 0-2-1, and that the Phillies missed an expanded MLB postseason by one game after blowing leads in 21 of 32 losses.
Some took it in another direction, insinuating Gritty could take Trump in a fight. (Earlier this year, Gritty was investigated after a report that he punched a 13-year-old in the back, but Philadelphia police ultimately determined no physical assault occurred.) Gritty, who is active on Twitter, had not commented as of Wednesday morning.
Others called on Philly Elmo to defend the city’s honor. The fuzzy red Sesame Street character often leads the Positive Movement drum line through city streets to lift residents' spirits, and has had several viral moments. Another Elmo was spotted at protests related to the murder of George Floyd over the summer.
Philly folks from the arts and entertainment world got a few words in as well.
Rob McElhenney, the Philadelphia-born star and creator of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, quipped, “Well, I guess Season 15 writes itself.”
Television producer Adam F. Goldberg defended one of Philly’s past “bad things” — the 2015 beheading of the traveling robot named HitchBOT. He joked that it was misunderstood at the time and was actually a good deed done.
Actor and director Gerald Webb joked that Philadelphians would invite Trump to visit after his comments, while comedy writer Carey O’Donnell said the President should “keep Philly out of his trash mouth.”
Closer to home, Philadelphians marked themselves “safe” from the bad things — just in case anyone in the rest of the country was worried.
It didn’t take long for artists and fashion designers to get in on the action, too. Dozens of shirts, magnets, stickers, and other merchandise with the words “Bad things happen in Philadelphia” were on sale online within hours.
The social-media consensus?
Maybe not the best idea to criticize a city that sang “No one likes us, we don’t care” in unison after the Eagles' Super Bowl win and then embraced it as a city slogan.
Many Philadelphians, it seems, are taking the President’s latest jab in stride, and in typical Philly fashion, are doing so with some self-deprecating humor.