Utah company fined for replacing ‘Made in China’ tags on their pro-USA T-shirts. Robert Gehrke says the grift fits a pattern.

‘Lions Not Sheep’ is the latest example of right-wing groups exploiting political frustrations to make a quick buck.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert Gehrke.

If your fashion sense resides in that sweet spot between the sophistication of Affliction t-shirts and the jingoistic flag-humping of a Jon McNaughton painting you may have already encountered “Lions Not Sheep.”

For everyone else: Lions Not Sheep is a Utah-based clothing company launched in 2016 that makes stridently pro-America, pro-gun, pro-Trump shirts, hats and apparel.

Sure, they sell the standard “Let’s Go Brandon” tees. Who doesn’t?

But they’re also your source for a “Give Violence a Chance” sweatshirt (now on sale for $40) or a “Shall Not Be Infringed” tank top. And if you need to convey your love and respect for the Stars and Stripes, what better way to do it than with their American flag onesie pajamas?

Don’t worry, ladies. They’ve got you covered, too. Perhaps the “No Beard, No Booty” T-shirt sends just the right message about your independent thought and depth of character.

Every order comes with a free copy of the U.S. Constitution because they love America. So much so, in fact, that they had made a big deal about all their clothing being manufactured right here in the U.S. of A.

That is, they used to.

Last week, the owner of “Lions Not Sheep” agreed to pay a $211,335 fine to the Federal Trade Commission after the agency accused the company of cutting the labels that said “Made in China” or other countries out of their clothes and stamping them “Made in USA”.

As part of the settlement, the company agreed to cease its label fraud, not promote foreign-made products as American made and contact everyone who has purchased a garment since May 2021 and (sheepishly, I presume) tell them about the deception.

Perhaps these lions are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Or maybe they’re just weasels.

Either way, it reaffirms a suspicion that I’ve had for a while: That a significant portion of the right-wing rage machine is fueled by people looking to exploit the anger and make a quick buck.

Some of the scams are big. In June, NPR reported, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot revealed that Donald Trump’s team perpetuated election fraud lies in order to raise a quarter of a billion dollars for his “Official Election Defense Fund” — a fund, the committee asserted, does not exist. It’s the intersection of The Big Lie and The Big Grift.

Or you can look at someone like Alex Jones, who will make absurd, outlandish claims — like the Sandy Hook massacre was staged by crisis actors — then use the attention to sell colloidal silver products and toothpastes he claimed could stop COVID, according to Forbes. The Huffington Post reported Jones made $165 million over a three-year span.

It may have finally caught up with him, as Jones is currently being sued by families of the victims for $150 million in damages — and Jones has admitted on the stand he believes the massacre was real.

Closer to home, you’ve got Eric Moutsos, the former Salt Lake City cop who, through relentless self-promotion during the pandemic, became the face of Utah’s “anti-tyranny” movement. Now, if you go to his website, you can pick up his Freedom Blends, a line of workout supplements “with a purpose to educate the masses to preserve our God given rights of Life, Liberty, and Happiness.”

It’s worth visiting the website if only to check out the names of the products: “Commie Colon Cleanse,” “Lady Liberty Libido,” “Pro-Life Protein” and “The Whig Party,” which is touted as helping to grow healthier hair and to give skin a natural glow.

To be perfectly clear, I am not suggesting all or any of these products are scams. Moutsos and I have had our differences, but I feel like we’ve come to an understanding. And the guy is pretty jacked, so maybe the supplements work. Just not the hair one.

And I’m sure the Lions Not Sheep tees are perfectly adequate for a garment manufactured in communist China.

But it is worth keeping in mind that next time someone gets you all fired up about election fraud or gun rights or some other outrage, it’s possible they are genuine, true believers in a cause.

Or they might be like stereotypical televangelists, playing with your mind while they reach for your wallet.