An assistant principal in Texas who self-published a conservative children’s book featuring Pepe the frog insists he had no idea the cartoon character had become a symbol of white supremacy.
Eric Hauser, who has worked in the Denton Independent School District for more than 10 years, wrote “The Adventures of Pepe and Pede”, a book he says has been picked up by a publisher just two weeks after its debut, the Dallas News reported.
The book tells the story of a frog and a centipede who “fight to restore law and order” and take on a bearded alligator named Alkah, according to the Dallas Observer.
The book’s description on Amazon.com also reads, “This is an adventurous tale for all ages packed with patriotic prominence!”
Pepe the frog was originally created by cartoonist Matt Furie more than a decade ago before it was hijacked by trolls and branded as a symbol of the “alt-right”, a movement that mixes racism, white nationalism and populism.
The Anti-Defamation League also called Pepe the Frog a hate symbol in September 2016, although the organization noted the meme was not necessarily “bigoted in nature”.
Hauser, who claims he was unaware of the connection before the book was published, told the Observer: “I disagree with the [alt-right or white supremacist] label. I think that label was put on Pepe in an attempt to silence conservatives. “
The political symbolism doesn’t stop at Pepe — centipedes are also what some Trump supporters call themselves.
The term originates from a series of YouTube videos that compiled footage of Trump during a debate with nature documentary voice-overs describing a centipede killing a tarantula.
Hauser told the Observer: “This book has a lot of conservative overtones, but I will tell you this: I wrote the book as attempt to break down the barriers of political correctness and embrace truth, honesty and teamwork.”
While some residents in Denton were put off by the book, plenty of Amazon customers left positive reviews.
Debra Nobles rated the book five stars and wrote, “A very sophisticated commentary about our political world today presented in a charming story for children.”
Mario Zavala, the spokesperson for the school district where Hauser will serve as an assistant principal at the newly built Rodriguez Middle School, defended him.
Zavala issued a statement on Friday that read: “We are aware of Mr. Hauser’s publication. The book was written on his own time, using his own resources and is not affiliated with our curriculum or instruction. Mr. Hauser’s book and its contents belong to him and are not tied to our district.”