Bernie Sanders uses his viral 'mittens' picture to raise €1.5m for charity
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Bernie Sanders uses his viral 'mittens' picture to raise €1.5m for charity

A PHOTO of Bernie Sanders sporting woolly winter wear at Joe Biden's inauguration has become an internet sensation, and the Senator has used it raise over €1.5m for charity.

Sanders looked downbeat but snug as he wore knitted mittens and a parka while watching the inauguration of his one-time democratic nominee rival, President Joe Biden.

The 79-year-old revealed that he has raised $1.8m (€1.5m) for charity in recent days through sales from merchandise featuring the viral image. 

"Jane and I were amazed by all the creativity shown by so many people over the last week, and we're glad we can use my internet fame to help Vermonters in need," Mr Sanders said.

"But even this amount of money is no substitute for action by Congress," he said, referring to efforts to pass a massive coronavirus pandemic rescue package.

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"I will be doing everything I can in Washington to make sure working people in Vermont and across the country get the relief they need in the middle of the worst crisis we've faced since the Great Depression."

Mr Sanders was pleased to note that the Vermont branch of Meals on Wheels and the Vermont Parent Child Network were among the recipients of the charitable funds.

The ironically dubbed “Chairman Sanders” merchandise included sweaters, T-shirts, and mugs, and sold out within 30 minutes of being made available online.

There is now a significant backlog of orders.

Humorous memes captioning the image – which seemed to lend itself to the public mood as well as many day-to-day scenarios – have since sprung forth on social media:

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The snap of the of Senator sitting cross-legged and donning a light blue surgical mask was captured by AFP photographer Brendan Smialowski.

A spokesperson for Mr Sanders' office confirmed that, as a condition of the licensing agreement for the image, Getty Images (the ultimate owner of AFP) will donate the proceeds to various US charities.

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Commenting on the deluge of online attention that his picture has attracted, Mr Smialowski said: "The internet is like a wild animal, tough to predict and hard to tame".

"While I never expect or strive for my work to go viral or get memed, it doesn't surprise me in the sense that the internet and social media are unpredictable. Anything is possible," said Mr Smialowski.