Since the blog that came before this blog died, my relationship to the news cycle has changed slightly. It is still massively unhealthy, sure, but often I will go a day or two without picking up on every single small possible detail of the goings-on in the Trump administration and politics in general, instead absorbing larger points and storylines or focusing on specific issues for freelance pieces that I write. However.
It has come to my attention today that there is a man named Joseph Pizza, colloquially known as Joe Pizza. I was not aware of Joe Pizza until today, which is a tragic injustice, because he is directly connected with the president of the United States and also is named “Joe Pizza,” which is fucking hilarious. FEC records show that Joe Pizza is a conservative megadonor, and has given thousands of dollars to Donald Trump, Devin Nunes, and a whole slate of other Republican candidates and causes. New reporting from Sludge shows that Mr. Pizza is ALSO a pharamaceutical CEO who runs a company that produces hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug that Trump thinks can cure coronavirus, and suggests that Mr. Pizza may actually be the one who turned Trump on to the whole situation, which is a flabbergasting example of open corruption.
FEC records also show something else: there is ANOTHER Joe Pizza.
Dr. Joseph Pizza is an associate professor of English and the director of both rhetoric and first year writing at North Carolina’s Belmont Abbey College. Dr. Pizza, NOT to be confused with Mr. Pizza, is also a Bernie Sanders donor and DSA member who made several modest $20-or-so contributions to the campaign throughout 2019 and 2020.
I emailed Dr. Pizza to ask him how he felt about sharing a name with a man who owns pharmaceutical companies that manufacture an unproven drug the president wants to flog to his supporters as a miracle cure for a deadly international pandemic.
“Wow! To be honest, I had not seen this before and am somewhat shocked and disturbed by the coincidence,” Dr. Pizza emailed back. He’s absolutely right, it IS shocking! We talked on the phone a few minutes later.
Turns out Dr. Pizza’s name is NOT pronounced like pizza. When his grandfather (who, like his father, was also named Joseph, which technically makes him Dr. Joe Pizza III) immigrated to the U.S. in the 1930s, he changed the pronunciation to sound like Pisa, as in Leaning Tower of, instead of Pizza, as in pepperoni. Probably a wise decision.
“To be honest I went to school in a largely Italian neighborhood,” Dr. Pizza told me, “There was a Tony Macaroni, so it was not that interesting.”
The Pizza men were “lifelong Democrats and progressives,” Pizza said, who worked in steel mills and other blue collar professions in Trenton, New Jersey, which all contributed to his support for Sanders. He was the first in his family to attend college, and went to Oxford University in England.
“Having lived in England and seen the NHS up close and personal — my first child was born there — I thought Medicare for All was fantastic and just what we needed,” Pizza told me.
I asked if he’d ever run into this coincidence before. “When we went to buy a house in the Charlotte [N.C.] area, they kept asking us if we had multiple mortgages, because there was someone with my name who owned a very large house in northern New Jersey,” he said. FEC records show that Joe Pizza the Pharma CEO often donates from New Jersey and Florida.
“It’s a reminder of how darkly surreal things have become,” Dr. Pizza said. “While I am disappointed that Bernie’s had to step out, it just makes me all that more determined to do what I can to make sure there’s a new president in the fall.”
He said that in the past, he’s had to be very clear with prospective employers on how to find his details online, lest they get spammed with listings for pizza restaurants. This latest story could be an even worse blow to his SEO.
“If this Joe Pizza ever becomes famous enough, I might have to change it,” he said.
For the sake of the good Dr. Pizza and also America, I sincerely hope it never comes to that.
Photo: Christian Jensen/Flickr