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President Joe Biden wasn’t involved in recent announcements by Dr. Seuss Enterprises and Hasbro. They reflect internal company decisions.
Biden broke precedent with two previous administrations for not mentioning Dr. Seuss during his National Read Across America Day proclamation. But efforts to move away from tying the author to the day preceded Biden’s time in office, as did the company’s decision to discontinue some of its titles.
First, the Mr. Potato Head toy dropped the honorific from its name. Then, news broke that Dr. Seuss Enterprises would pull six of the famed children’s author’s books from publication.
According to some claims on social media, there was only one person to blame: The new president of the United States.
"Trump took down ISIS," read a viral post on Facebook. "Biden took down Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head."
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
President Joe Biden was not involved in the business decisions affecting these two classic children’s icons. Both Dr. Seuss Enterprises and Hasbro made internal decisions about their products on their own.
Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced on March 2, the author’s birthday, that it would stop publishing and licensing six Dr. Seuss books that have been criticized for how they depict Black and Asian people. About three dozen titles from the author will remain on bookshelves, including the popular "Cat in the Hat," "Green Eggs and Ham," "The Lorax" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!"
The company said it decided in 2020 to remove the six titles.
"Dr. Seuss Enterprises, working with a panel of experts, including educators, reviewed our catalog of titles and made the decision last year to cease publication and licensing of the following titles: ‘And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,’ ‘If I Ran the Zoo,’ ‘McElligot’s Pool,’ ‘On Beyond Zebra!’, ‘Scrambled Eggs Super!’, and ‘The Cat’s Quizzer’."
"These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong," the company added.
For example, in "If I Ran the Zoo" men said to be from Africa are shown shirtless, shoeless, wearing grass skirts as they carry an animal. Another page shows men of Asian descent carrying a caged animal on their heads. The text beneath the characters describes them as "helpers who all wear their eyes at a slant" from "countries no one can spell."
March 2 also marks National Reading Across America Day, which was established in 1998 by the National Education Association to encourage reading among children and teenagers.
The event is billed as the nation's biggest celebration of reading, with an estimated 45 million participants. Schools nationwide traditionally hold read-aloud celebrations featuring Dr. Seuss books and characters. In 2017, however, the NEA said it would begin shifting its focus toward a year-round promotion of diverse children’s books.
"Kids need books that are as diverse and complex as the society in which we live," an NEA spokesperson told PolitiFact in an email. "NEA’s Read Across America has evolved since its inception 23 years ago. In 2018, the literacy program not only continued to emphasize the joy, fun, and adventure of reading but we shifted to focus on celebrating a nation of diverse readers by featuring books in which all students can see themselves."
In 2021’s Read Across America presidential proclamation March 1, Biden broke precedent with two previous administrations when he left out Dr. Seuss’s name.
But Biden himself was not involved in the decision to remove the Seuss titles from publication or the plan to de-emphasize the author in the national reading celebration. The shift has been years in the making, and the organization has made multiple announcements about its new mission.
Hasbro announced on Feb. 25 that it was rebranding its Mr. Potato Head toy by dropping the "Mr." from the product name. The company said it will retain the Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head characters and plans to release a "create your potato head family" toy set in fall 2021.
The company faced a backlash online over the change, and it clarified on Twitter that it would continue to sell the original toys.
The difference is that the brand name and new family sets will be gender-neutral in order to promote more inclusivity. Hasbro released images of the sets, which portray different kinds of families including ones with two moms, two dads, as well as the traditional Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head couple.
The Biden administration was not involved in Hasbro’s decision or announcement.
Facebook posts claim that Biden "took down" Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head.
This isn’t accurate. Announcements by Dr. Seuss Enterprises and Hasbro reflect internal company decisions. Biden wasn’t involved.
Neither has been "taken down" by the president of the United States. Hasbro said that Mr. Potato Head will continue to be sold, and more than three dozen Dr. Seuss books remain in circulation.
Efforts to move away from tying Seuss to National Read Across America Day preceded Biden’s time in office, as did the company’s decision to discontinue some titles.
This post is False.
Facebook post, March 3, 2021
NPR, Dr. Seuss Enterprises Will Shelve 6 Books, Citing 'Hurtful' Portrayals, March 2, 2021
Statement from Dr. Seuss Enterprises March 2, 2021
WhiteHouse.gov, A Proclamation on Read Across America Day, 2021, March 1, 2021
School Library Journal, Is the Cat in the Hat Racist? Read Across America Shifts Away From Dr. Seuss and Toward Diverse Books, Sept. 11, 2017
National Education Association, Read Across America: Frequently Asked Questions, Jan. 28, 2021
National Education Association, NEA Rebrands Read Across America to "Celebrate a Nation of Diverse Readers", Feb. 28, 2020
Snopes, Did Biden ‘Erase’ Dr. Seuss From Read Across America Day?, March 2, 2021
Hasbro, Mr. Potato Head Brand Update, Feb. 25, 2021
Twitter, Hasbro tweet, Feb. 25, 2021
Email interview, Miguel Gonzalez spokesperson for the National Education Association, March 4, 2021
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