Claw Machine Controversy on Rehoboth’s Boardwalk

Dr. Fauci plush figure hangs from a surgical mask in Zelky’s claw machine

In regard to the claw machine controversy, it has now become a matter of First Amendment rights, says Matt Weiner, manager of the three Zelky’s arcades on the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk. At the start of the summer season, he says he filled one of the claw machines on the boardwalk with Trump, Fauci and Reagan dolls. A Dr. Fauci doll was left dangling from a surgical mask. “Originally I was going to put the mask over his face,” Weiner says, “but the mask was too big… but I still wanted to hang a mask with him. It’s Dr. Fauci’s quintessential accessory.”

Somebody noticed Dr. Fauci was left hanging from a surgical mask, alerted the media and WBOC-TV reported on it this past Tuesday after reporter Cassie Semyon posted it to Facebook last Monday. The News Journal picked up the story by Thursday and followed it up with this lengthy editorial written by two Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice members on Friday.

Reporters contacted Rehoboth Beach city hall inquiring about the legality, and one woman even called the police last Wednesday seeking law enforcement action. The News Journal quoted Lynne Coan, city spokeswoman, stating that this was a “freedom of speech issue” that does not involve the city. Another woman demanded that the FBI and CIA be alerted to Weiner’s claw machine in a post on the liberal Facebook group, The Even More Patriotic Patriots For Delaware.

“The original news story by WBOC put words in my mouth which were carried on to all other publications,” Weiner said, adding that he never said he “has no plans to remove the doll.” He says the reporter did not ask him that question. He noted that they do switch prizes regularly based on available stock and popularity. He also says the WBOC news crew declined to include different and supportive viewpoints expressed by other passers-by. He points out that other news sites such as Newsbreak are receiving comments in support of Zelky’s and the display.

Weiner disagrees with the various complaints and says people have “made this into a big thing that’s really just a stuffed toy in a claw machine… I almost find it comical that this is what is newsworthy; it is a stuffed toy in a crane machine on the boardwalk,” he added. “The majority of people pass by the machine without being bothered by it; in fact, the response has been overwhelmingly positive in the arcade, and the claw machine has been even more popular within the last week since the story ran,” he added.