"My favorite meat": Mitt Romney goes viral in an alien-like ode to hot dogs

"I love ‘em in buns. I love them outside of buns"

By Ashlie D. Stevens

Food Editor

Published August 1, 2023 5:30AM (EDT)

Mitt Romney and hotdogs (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Mitt Romney and hotdogs (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Do you remember in the mid-2000s when liking bacon became a whole personality? Bacon-wrapped everything dominated menus as dudes with handlebar mustaches and a spritz of ironic bacon-scented cologne collectively got pork bellies tattooed on their forearms. Well, it seems that Bacon Dudes walked so that Utah Senator Mitt Romney could run — towards making hot dogs a perplexing, if distinguishing, part of his public persona. 

In a video that was filmed last Wednesday (ahem, National Hot Dog Day, per the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council), but went viral on social media over the weekend, Romney exits his office, wearing a ball cap emblazoned with an illustration of a hot dog and holding an actual hot dog in his hand. 

"Well, as you all know, today is National Hot Dog Day," he said to the camera. "Perhaps you also know that hot dog is my favorite meat. I love hot dogs. I love 'em in buns. I love them outside of buns. I love them in baked beans. I just like hot dogs." 

He continued: "It's the best meat there is, without question." 

As a Chicagoan, I won't comment on his decision to dress his hot dog with a serpentine squirt of ketchup, though I will point you to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council's official etiquette guide, which states: "Don't use ketchup on your hot dog after the age of 18. Mustard, relish, onions, cheese and chili are acceptable." 

However, it was the tone of the video that many viewers classified as truly unsettling. Despite the script ostensibly being a love letter to the ballpark favorite, Romney's delivery is pretty low-key. Unenthused, even. 

Some commenters said that it seemed like the senator was being held captive by Oscar Mayer; others said that it seemed like another example of Romney acting almost like an alien trying to fit in on earth, much like in 2019 when a video of his unorthodox method for blowing out birthday candles also went viral. At the time "Late Show" host Stephen Colbert said:

"Just like Twinkies, Mitt Romney doesn't age and he's even whiter on the inside. But the weird part is Romney blew out the candles by picking them up and blowing them out individually. ... Everything he does is like an alien Googled 'How to do a normal.?'"

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In this case, a viewer commented on Romney's video: "I often enjoy one of those hot meat dogs while attending a game of sport with other humans." 

But when I watched the video, I was struck by something else. It's the same thing that prompted me to watch the video enough times over the weekend that, when a colleague asked on Monday morning if I had seen the "hot…" I didn't even have to wait for them to finish their sentence before responding, "The Mitt Romney hot dog video? Yes, several times." 

What strikes me about this clip is that it feels like Romney is shilling for someone — but I'm not quite sure whom. Some important context: This also isn't the first year that Romney has made this public declaration about hot dogs. 

"Everything he does is like an alien Googled 'How to do a normal?'"

In 2018, the former Massachusetts governor was interviewed by the Washington Examiner, who classified him as "not a complicated person, with simple tastes that can seem out of place with a man worth hundreds of millions of dollars." At the time Romney was running for a Senate seat in Utah and the profile described a scene in which his campaign organized a casual dinner for supporters. During the meal, Romney told them, "My favorite meat is hot dog, by the way. That is my favorite meat." 

"My second favorite meat is hamburger," he continued. "And, everyone says, 'Oh, don't you prefer steak?' It's like, I know steaks are great, but I like hot dog best, and I like hamburger next best."

In 2019, Romney posted a video of himself celebrating National Hot Dog Day in which he, again, declared: "This is National Hot Dog day and, as you know, hot dog is my favorite meat."

Going back to the Bacon Dudes for just a moment, as Salon's Joy Saha wrote, bacon's cultural come up was grounded in politics. Amid the 1980s and early 1990s, consumers refrained from eating bacon or other processed pork products due to anti-fat and anti-nitrate scares. In response, the National Pork Board launched the "Pork: The Other White Meat" campaign in hopes that consumers would purchase more pork products and abandon the misconception that pork was just a "fatty protein." They also pushed for more lean cuts of meat, specifically chops and tenderloins, which, in turn, caused the price of fattier cuts to drop significantly.

"While most food trends tend to trickle down from the gourmet market into the mouths of mass consumers, that wasn't the case with bacon," wrote Bloomberg Business Week's David Sax. "'Bacon mania' was sparked not in the kitchens of fancy restaurants in New York or Chicago, but in the pork industry's humble marketing offices in Iowa."

Is Mitt Romney in the pocket of Big Sausage? That seemed a plausible enough explanation for his years-long campaign to establish hot dogs as "the best meat." As a result, I spent way too much time this weekend researching the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council's lobbying efforts over the last decade. There were some interesting tidbits along the way. For instance, in 2012, the council became enraged when the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine erected a billboard in Chicago declaring that "Hot Dogs Cause Butt Cancer: Processed meats increase colorectal cancer risk." 

At the time, the council responded that hot dogs were a part of a healthy, balanced diet and the "group's claims [were] on a collision course with the facts." 

A few years later, the council was back in the media, although for a more cheerful reason. In November 2015, the group released a press release weighing in on whether a hot dog was, in fact, a sandwich. They voted "no," declaring it "more than a sandwich."

"Limiting the hot dog's significance by saying it's 'just a sandwich' is like calling the Dalai Lama 'just a guy,'" the release read. "Perhaps at one time its importance could be limited by forcing it into a larger sandwich category (no disrespect to Reubens and others), but that time has passed." 

Is it hyperbole? Yes, but I suppose that goes along with the job. Part of the mission of the trade organization is "celebrating hot dogs and sausages as iconic American foods." And while Romney and Big Sausage may not be politically tied, they do share that mission in common. 

Before he closed out his viral video last week, Romney said to his viewers, in a tone more earnest than the preceding script, "May there be many, many more hot dogs served in our wonderful land."


By Ashlie D. Stevens

Ashlie D. Stevens is Salon's food editor. She is also an award-winning radio producer, editor and features writer — with a special emphasis on food, culture and subculture. Her writing has appeared in and on The Atlantic, National Geographic’s “The Plate,” Eater, VICE, Slate, Salon, The Bitter Southerner and Chicago Magazine, while her audio work has appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered and Here & Now, as well as APM’s Marketplace. She is based in Chicago.

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Commentary Hot Dogs Mitt Romney Processed Food