Fulfilling the promise of an “all-star” lineup in a manner befitting a man who applies that phrase to seasons of The Apprentice, this week’s Republican National Convention will kick off tonight with keynote speeches from Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson, Antonio Sabato Jr., and Scott Baio. Normally to catch these luminaries back to back to back, you would have to completely misuse your cable package. But as our nation prepares to deliberate over electing a man most famed for chastising faded stars for making shitty sandwiches, it’s only fitting that theirs should be the three-headed celebrity Cerberus we pass before entering the gates leading to the underworld of the next four months.
Of these, Robertson is an obvious choice, given that he has similarly turned reality TV stardom and slapping his family name on an endless array of garbage into a multimillion-dollar empire—not to mention his new role as a professional agitator on Fox News. As for why Antonio Sabato Jr., well… As viewers of cop dramas and straight-to-video thrillers will tell you, eventually Antonio Sabato Jr. shows up to everything. But it’s Scott Baio’s name that’s currently giving everyone pause in a way not seen since anyone glanced at the DVD of Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2.
Like Fonzie suddenly getting a cousin named Chachi, Baio was a last-minute addition that, from Baio’s own telling, seemed like a rash decision, possibly intended to shake up what’s been widely perceived as the RNC’s surprisingly stagnant cast. And as Baio explained over the weekend on Fox News’ Justice With Judge Jeanine, he doesn’t “know exactly what it is that I’m talkin’ about.” He’s just there to bring the same Baio-esque gravitas he previously lent to Willie Aames and your mom’s high-school locker.
“I was at a fundraiser for Mr. Trump the other night with my wife, and he invited me to speak at the convention—which was completely unexpected and out of left field,” Baio told Fox’s Justice With Judge Jeanine of Trump’s typically prudent selection. “He had given a speech and he was walking out and I looked at him and I said, ‘Mr. Trump, Scott Baio…,’ and he said, ‘Oh my God!’ And he said to me, ‘Do you want to speak?’ and I said, ‘Here?’ and he goes, ‘No, no, at the convention!’ And I went, ‘Uhhh… oh … okay.’”
“Uhhh, oh, okay” more or less sums up the reaction from the collective punditry on both sides of the political spectrum, once it was confirmed that the Charles In Charge star—whose own authority over three rambunctious teenagers was perpetually in question—would be on hand to endorse Trump similarly presiding over a childish, squabbling nation. And yet, besides being the first instance of Scott Baio being seen on primetime since Bob Loblaw’s Law Blog, tonight’s appearance at the RNC actually marks the culmination of years of Baio’s evolution as a political animal.
As one might expect for a guy who really misses 1982, Scott Baio is a lifelong devotee of Ronald Reagan, having bragged about campaigning for him as a young man and even attended his funeral, right next to Margaret Thatcher. At a Hollywood Republican mixer in 2011, Baio reportedly gave a speech where he recalled weeping at the Reagan Library, thinking to himself, “In 25 years we went from that guy to this guy? How do we go from a guy who believed in individualism, who loved our country, to a guy who doesn’t seem to even like our country at all? … If the next election is between Obama and Satan, I choose Satan because at least I know who that guy is!”
But Baio’s attraction to Trump goes beyond just being the devil he knows, or their mutual love of self-made “individualism” as represented by the guy who inherited his father’s real estate empire—or even, as he told Glenn Beck of his political philosophy in 2009, their shared maxim of “I believe in killing bad guys.” As he has told everyone who will listen—and as he boasted, Trump-like, to Judge Jeanine, he’s had “I don’t know how many interviews, and radio, and print, and things like that” since offering his endorsement—he’s enamored with the way Trump talks. “It’s very simple, because when he speaks I understand him,” Baio said on Judge Jeanine back in March. “He speaks like I speak, he communicates with people very well. I want him, as any one person can do, to go into Washington and blow it up.”
So how does Scott Baio speak? In between Judge Jeanine bookings, radio, print, things like that, his Twitter feed has long been the best place to hear Scott Baio’s hot takes on all things America. He’s used it to share his pro-life messages, his thoughts on border control, and most memorably, his opinions on the U.S. tax system:
He also used it tweet out a photo of Michelle Obama that stirred up controversy for its implication that she’s unattractive and a perceived racist subtext—completely unwarranted, an aggrieved Baio said, because “MY WIFE’S BEST FRD IS BLACK, HELLO.”
Hello, indeed. After Jezebel began taking notice of Baio’s incredibly prolific missives and posting them, without comment, in its “Tweet Beat” column, Baio’s Twitter also became the best place to hear a new, more expansive narrative: That of Scott Baio’s ongoing war against the “trolls”—Jezebel, The Huffington Post, journalists in general, people without proper respect for his IMDB credits, etc. Even his wife, Renee, soon got involved, escalating the war of words with Jezebel’s writers by inventing a few of her own:
Unsurprisingly, the backlash was as swift as Scott Baio’s piss is full of class. Within days, the Tumblr Scott Baio Ruins Everything began posting examples of the many ways Scott Baio ruins everything. Urban Dictionary did its level best to turn Scott Baio into the new Rick Santorum. And Scott Baio, emboldened by the hate, quickly became the kind of “victim” of the liberal media crowd—magnified by his being among the few outspoken conservatives in Hollywood—whom right-wing talk shows love to bring on as guests, which only fuels his drive to fight the good, if frequently baffling fight. Like when he took on the clear liberal bias of his local Starbucks barista:
Or more recently, when he took on 16-year-old actor Aramis Knight on Trump’s behalf, once again delivering the fatal ideological blow of pointing to how many movie and TV credits he has compared to a teenager. (Ever vigilant watchers of Baio, Jezebel reported on the whole kerfuffle, and earned Baio’s ire all over again.)
— AK (@AramisKnight88) July 14, 2016
Baio has also come out firmly as a believer that “All Lives Matter,” even telling one Black Lives Matter supporter that his own family suffered plenty of segregation and enslavement itself for being “100% Sicilian,” while also getting in a dig at today’s illegal immigrants.
Expounding on his immigration and foreign policy platforms, last month, Baio appeared on Fox Business Network, where he said Obama’s response to the tragedy in Orlando had him wondering, “If he’s dumb, he’s a Muslim or he’s a Muslim sympathizer. And I don’t think he’s dumb.’ He also questioned Obama’s “end game,” asking, “Is it to totally eliminate the United States as it was created and founded and the way it is now?” The question was left chillingly unanswered.
Of course, Baio’s been slightly more direct about Obama on Twitter, with a little help from his wife’s gift for portmanteau:
And he’s been even more blunt about Hillary Clinton, repeatedly baiting her with taunts over her “blood money” and calls for her to be imprisoned. More recently, he retweeted a meme where Clinton stood before a sign that appeared to bear the word “Cunt”— and given how ferociously he’s gone after any publication who brings this up, let us make clear now that he didn’t actually call her that or anything else, leaving the image’s many subtleties to be interpreted according to the prejudices of the reader.
— Scott Baio (@ScottBaio) July 17, 2016
So, this is how Scott Baio speaks—in wild insinuation, naked insults, and righteous indignation, tempered by self-aggrandizing reminders that he is a good person (his Bailey Baio Angel Foundation is often wielded like a cudgel against critics) and also a very wealthy and famous person, a person that people know and respect and who even directed 41 episodes of Charles In Charge. In short, Scott Baio is right: He speaks like Donald Trump speaks, and vice versa. As The Daily Beast points out, he even shares Trump’s zeal for assessing women according to their looks, similarly bragging of his many conquests on Howard Stern and talking about his other charity of “giving back” by sleeping with the “less attractive.” All that’s missing is the occasional shout-out to a building.
And when the former Scott Baio Is 45 … And Single star takes the stage tonight alongside his fellow reality TV vets Willie Robertson, Antonio Sabato Jr., and Donald Trump, it will be the widest audience yet for his views (along with the widest audience Scott Baio has seen since Diagnosis Murder). Fortunately for Baio, he doesn’t need to worry about being prepared or know what he’s talking about; he just has to speak from these years of experience. In this embarrassing VH1 show of an election, where fame and fury are all that matters, Scott Baio fits right in.