The truth about the Mr. Rogers tattoo rumors

Mister Rogers seemed like the kind of guy who used his spare time to teach angels how to be gentler souls. And even though he's become one of those angels, he continues to live on in our fondest memories and strangest myths. As History recounts, all sorts of stories abound about a grittier version of your favorite neighbor. According to one legend, Mister Rogers flipped the bird at a TV cameraman, and by "bird" we don't mean X the Owl. One of the craziest accounts claims that underneath his sweater sleeves was evidence that he served in the Vietnam War.

Your neighbor the tattooed sniper

LiveAbout elaborates on the Mister Rogers war story, writing that since around the 1990s, people have spread the tale that Mister Rogers picked off "as many as 150" people in Vietnam as a sniper. He supposedly recorded those kills in the form of arm tattoos. Once he starred in a children's show, he obviously couldn't talk about how he capped a bunch of people overseas. And that, the rumors said, was why Mister Rogers always wore sweaters.

That story, along with many other outrageous claims, is so wildly incorrect that it doesn't even deserve to live in the Land of Make-Believe. (Mister Rogers would probably let it, though because he was so nice.) In reality, Mister Rogers attended a theological seminary but found his true calling bringing joy to millions of children. As for the sweaters, the Fred Rogers Company explains that Rogers' mother used to knit sweaters for him by hand as a way of saying, "I love you." And wearing those sweaters on the show reminded him of her.

Why does this Mister Rogers tattoo myth exist?

Why do we have a "Mister Rogers as a tattooed Marine sniper" myth? Perhaps it's because his natural sweetness put sugar to shame. For example, in the Epic Rap Battle of History between Mister Rogers (portrayed by the appropriately named Nice Peter) and his opponent, Mr. T, the Rogers character threw down this epic line: "I'll be rocking sneakers 'till this battle's over / So I don't get blood from your ugly face on my penny loafers." According to communication professor Trevor Blank, because Rogers was so trusted and beloved by children, he became an ideal target for people wanting to undermine his "upstanding image." Maybe people just can't bring themselves to accept that someone as good as Mister Rogers could be anything other than make-believe.