Two men from Delaware, Ohio, who went viral after wearing custom-made T-shirts reading "I'd Rather Be A Russian Than A Democrat,” are pushing back on criticism that they are “traitors.”
Earlier this month, James Timothy "Tim" Alicie and Richard Birchfield captured national headlines after a photo of them wearing the controversial apparel at a rally for President TrumpDonald TrumpCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Netanyahu suggests Biden fell asleep in meeting with Israeli PM Aides try to keep Biden away from unscripted events or long interviews, book claims MORE in Lewis Center, Ohio, made the rounds on social media.
Shortly after photos of the two men wearing the shirts emerged on social media, TV host Bill Maher dubbed the pair "traitors,” echoing the sentiments of many others who were critical of their pro-Russia rally attire.
"We're not traitors by any means. And we're not Russian spies or cult leaders," Alicie said told Cleveland.com in an interview published on Tuesday, though the 60-year-old added that he liked that he and Birchfield had been dubbed "Russian hillbillies."
Alicie also said that although the shirts were meant to be a joke, he believes the message behind the shirts “is kind of serious if you think about it."
"We've been working with Russia with the [International] Space Station, and doing a lot of things with Russia, not just that," Alicie said, adding that critics of the Russia shirts "need to be a lot better informed."
However, despite the barrage of complaints directed at the two men on social media about their clothes, Alicie and Birchfield told the outlet they have managed to largely avoid any negative comments about the apparel, as neither of them spend much time on the internet and both still use flip phones.
Alicie also added that not every response they’ve received about the shirts has been critical. As he pointed out in the interview, members of the Ku Klux Klan invited him and Birchfield to deliver remarks at a meeting in Columbus. But Alicie said they declined the invitation.
"I surely don't agree with any of their views," he said.
When pressed if he or Birchfield were bothered by the hate organization appearing to be in agreement with their stance on Russia, Alicie answered, "For the most part, they're probably not a hell of a lot different than anybody else. But I can't help it that they got a twisted mind the way they think about certain things."
Alicie also said the two "haven't made one nickel" from their shirts since the rally this month but are seeking to launch an online store to sell "authentic" versions of the tops.