How Rick Santorum Saved Wrestling

GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum (artist's rendering).Andrew A. Nelles/ZumaPress; <a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/cat.mhtml?lang=en&search_source=search_form&version=llv1&anyorall=all&safesearch=1&searchterm=Lucha+libre&search_group=&orient=&search_cat=&searchtermx=&photographer_name=&people_gender=&people_age=&people_ethnicity=&people_number=&commercial_ok=&color=&show_color_wheel=1#id=6293173&src=766421fbe9db1ef6f1f6846e5262dd2a-1-2">George Koroneos</a>/Shutterstock

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

Rick Santorum’s effort in Iowa received a late boost from Jim Gibbons, the much-revered former wrestling coach at Iowa State University, who endorsed the GOP presidential candidate at a Pizza Ranch in Boone on Monday. In a caucus, where voters can be pressured by their peers right up to the minute they cast their votes, these kinds of endorsements tend to carry a lot of weight. But there’s another sub-plot to it all: Rick Santorum has sort of a weird fixation with wrestling.

As Mike Newall reported in his excellent 2005 Philadelphia City Paper profile, prior to getting involved in politics, Santorum worked at a law firm, where he once argued in court—successfully—that pro wrestling should be exempt from steroid regulations because it’s staged (and therefore not a sport). Jake Tapper flags a 2010 quote from the Philadelphia Inquirer in which Santorum spins his wrestling work in small-government terms: “Pennsylvania was the most pernicious of states when it came to regulation. They made you pay all this money to the boxing [athletic] commission. They used to just rape these guys. You’d have to pay a certain percentage of the gate receipts to have these officials just stand around and watch the match. It was ridiculous.” (Emphasis mine.)

And—because three makes a trend—here’s a Rick Santorum campaign ad from 2006, which has been making the rounds today. It stars Rick Santorum (obviously), using the spectacle of mostly-naked men wrestling as a metaphor for what’s wrong with Washington. (If nothing else, he seems to have anticipated the Chris Lee/Anthony Weiner scandals):

What would Rick Santorum’s wrestling name be? We’re going with “The Vest.”

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest