Ronald McDonald Is Keeping a Low Profile Amidst Creepy Clown Sightings

Jake Rossen
Getty / Getty

The clown crisis of 2016 has seen regional law enforcement pursue leads relating to malevolent clowns, while harmless clowns have become targets of suspicion.

Now, the hysteria has claimed its first official victim: Ronald McDonald is taking a sabbatical.

According to McDonald's, the red-haired mascot will be minimizing his personal appearances until the current climate of anti-clown sentiment blows over.

“McDonald's and franchisees in local markets are mindful of the current climate around clown sightings in communities and as such are being thoughtful with respect to Ronald McDonald's participation in community events for the time being," McDonald's spokeswoman Terri Hickey told CNN. “This does not mean that there will be no appearances by Ronald McDonald, but that we are being thoughtful as to Ronald McDonald's participation in various community events at this time.”

The move comes on the clown-shoe-sized heels of Ronald getting a makeover in 2014, when his overalls were replaced by cargo pants. Despite his genial nature, Ronald has always faced an uphill battle: In a 2014 Rasmussen poll, 43 percent of Americans indicated they dislike clowns.

[h/t TIME]