“Bad things happen in Philadelphia.”
The sentence, uttered by President Donald Trump near the end of Tuesday night’s debate, reverberated around the city, sparking indignation, humor and even entrepreneurship. There was also anger and frustration.
“The president should keep Philadelphia out of his f—–ng mouth,” State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, a rising star in the Democratic Party, told Metro.
“When he’s referring to bad things, what he’s talking about is people are going to vote against him, and he is absolutely correct,” he added. “They’re going to vote against him in record numbers.”
During the debate, watched by tens of millions on national television, Trump reiterated a claim he had made earlier in the day on Twitter about poll workers being kept away from satellite election offices.
Trump has been urging his supporters to monitor voting and has frequently warned about large-scale election fraud without evidence.
“Today, there was a big problem,” he said. “In Philadelphia, they went in to watch. They were called poll watchers, a very safe, a very nice thing. They were thrown out. They weren’t allowed to watch. You know why? Because bad things happen in Philadelphia. Bad things.”
Deputy City Commissioner Nick Custodio said poll watchers aren’t allowed at the satellite election offices, which opened Tuesday, because the sites are not considered polling places.
Poll watchers are required to register, and they receive certificates, which only allow them to observe voting on Election Day, he said.
Residents can register to vote, apply for an absentee or mail-in ballot, fill out their ballot and submit it or drop off their completed mail-in ballot at the satellite election offices. Anyone not seeking voting-related services is prohibited.
“This is particularly important in the current environment as city buildings and offices remain closed to the public due to COVID-19,” Custodio said in an email.
A woman who said she was hired by the Trump campaign to monitor voting was turned away Tuesday afternoon at the satellite office at Overbrook Elementary School, according to the Inquirer.
Trump’s call for his backers to show up at the polls has raised concerns about voter intimidation.
His campaign had mounted a legal challenge against a state rule that poll watchers live in the county where they are monitoring voting; however, earlier this month, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the requirement is constitutional.
Mayor Jim Kenney said the city will conduct a fair and accurate election and follow state law.
“Nearly every word spoken and action taken by President Trump is meant to divide this country and cast doubt in our institutions, in this case—our election,” he said in a statement.
Other local leaders turned to Twitter to voice displeasure with Trump’s comments about Philadelphia.
“We will not allow him to intimidate us—or to keep us away from the ballot box,” Councilwoman Jamie Gauthier wrote. “He’s going to get whupped here and he knows it.”
“Just to be clear, no one plays with Philadelphia,” Councilwoman Kendra Brooks said. “We’re voting you out.”
Many latched onto the “bad things” comment, and some took it lighter than others.
City Commissioner Al Schmidt, the only Republican on the three-person board overseeing elections, tweeted a photo of the U.S. Constitution with the caption: “Good things happen in Philadelphia.”
Quite a few pointed to the “bad thing” that forced Will Smith’s character in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” to move West. Fans of Philadelphia sports related it to the “bad things” going on with the city’s struggling teams.
Rob McElhenny, star and creator of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” said on social media: “Well, I guess season 15 writes itself.” There were more than a few Gritty references.
T-shirts and other merchandise associated with “bad things happening in Philadelphia” went up for sale minutes after the debate ended.
Ethan Nguyen, owner of M Concept, a clothing and jewelry boutique on South Street near 16th Street, began mocking up a sweatshirt design as he was watching the debate.
A Vietnamese immigrant who grew up in Olney, Nguyen wanted to put a positive spin on his shirt, so it says “fabulous things happen in Philadelphia.”
“The city is wonderful, and I wanted to just really highlight that with a sense of humor,” he said.
The first batch sold out.