Trump insists protesters are throwing Bumble Bee tuna cans, in the midst of pandemic tuna shortage

President Donald Trump reversed course on Tuesday.

His cans got smaller.

Speaking at a campaign rally in Moon Township, Pa., Trump reiterated the claim that protesters have used canned food as weapons against law enforcement officers during demonstrations against police brutality in Minneapolis and Chicago. Only this time he singled out Bumble Bee brand tuna as the weapon of choice.

“Cans of tuna fish. They go out and buy tuna fish and soup. You know that, right?” Trump said. “They throw it. It’s the perfect weight, tuna fish, they can really rip it, right? And that hits you. No, it’s true. Bumble Bee brand tuna. And you can throw that, you can put a curve on it, you can do whatever the hell you want.”

A soup can is most often a 14-ounce cylindrical can; a tuna can is just 5 ounces, and flatter in shape. Trump suggested cans of tuna are the “perfect weight,” but according to Zebulon Sion, assistant track and field coach at the University of Texas, it’s more complicated than that.

“I went to my pantry to get a sense for weight,” he said Wednesday by phone. “A 15-ounce can would inflict damage, but you’d have to be relatively close. You could throw a can of tuna farther.”

Although Sion coached Valarie Allman, who broke the U.S. record for discus on Aug. 1, he says a can of tuna would be best thrown overhead, javelin-style, rather than out to the side like a discus.

“You could throw it farther that way, but you’d lose a lot of precision,” he said.

Within hours, Bumble Bee retorted. “Eat em. Don’t throw em,” Bumble Bee tweeted Tuesday in response to the remarks. Bumble Bee Foods filed for bankruptcy protection in 2019 and sold the company’s assets to Taiwan-based FCF Co. Ltd.

At a previous rally, the president had claimed cans of soup were being employed: “Soup. And they throw the cans of soup. That’s better than a brick because you can’t throw a brick; it’s too heavy. But a can of soup, you can really put some power into that, right?”

There have been no media reports about police being hit by cans of tuna.

Since the start of the pandemic, tuna fish has been in high demand. Sean Wittenberg, the president of Safe Catch, a company that specializes in canned and pouched tuna, sardines and salmon, said that in March and April canned tuna sales were up more than 200 percent.

“Because of this pandemic, the demand has exploded worldwide,” he said. “The demand is such that we can’t fill it.”

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