A video spot of Rudy Giuliani hawking MyPillow products elicited ridicule and a bit of wonder of what has happened to the man once known as America’s Mayor, but it’s hardly anything new for a political figure to give in to the temptations of commercial endorsements.
The spot was part of Giuliani’s Common Sense podcast, this one centered on the latest fascination with UFOs.
“I’ve been sleeping on MyPillows for some time,” Giuliani said on his show, posted on YouTube. “I love them, simply the very best pillows ever made. But I just found out they also have a wide assortment of other incredible products. Like their mattress toppers, sheets, towels.” Then Giuliani held up footwear as he said, “And slippers! And more!”
All sorts of well-known former elected officials have hawked products, ranging from Viagra to hotels to gold. Giuliani himself is under federal investigation and is defending himself in a lawsuit filed by elections systems companies Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic.
Giuliani and other Trump supporters may be a bit more brazen in their willingness, but it’s not like this hasn’t been done before.
Sebastian Gorka, the defender of Donald Trump who worked at the White House at the start of his term, has been appearing in spots for dietary supplement Relief Factor
The explosion in podcasts, meanwhile, has all sorts of political pundits interrupting their commentary to make pitches for their sponsors, including on PodSaveAmerica shows and others like Hacks on Tap.
This, however, is neither a phenomenon of the post-Trump presidency, or even of the modern media environment.
Back in the 1970s, American Express enlisted William E. Miller for spots, and he may have been better known for doing those commercials than he was as Barry Goldwater’s running mate in the 1964 presidential election.
Other presidential also-rans tried to capitalize on their moments of fame: Geraldine Ferraro followed her 1984 vice presidential run in a spot for Diet Pepsi, while Bob Dole’s presidential run was followed by a Visa spot and then, most famously, by a Viagra ad, and then by a Pepsi parody of that commercial.
In a spot back in 1989, former House Speaker Tip O’Neill emerged from a suitcase to endorse Clarion Hotels. “Now that I am out of the House, I spend a lot of time on the road. With Quality, Comfort, Clairion and Sleep Hotels, you can get a comfortable room with a great price anywhere you go. They even give me a 30% senior discount. Now who says a politician can’t control spending.”
The spot was one of several that O’Neill appeared in that year. He and Alexander Haig, the former Secretary of State, also did an ad for the Trump Shuttle, the airline started by the man who would later become president. At the time, there was some consternation over O’Neill’s move to cash in on his fame. CBS News’ Andy Rooney told The New York Times, “Anyone who has an independent position or opinion has to be awfully careful about saying something for money. It makes all their other opinions suspect.”
That sentiment actually sounds a bit quaint more than 30 years later, as it’s now a given that former elected officials will mull the option of a post-public career in lobbying, a practice commonly referred to as the government “revolving door.” But in a way, it is just another form of serving as a paid spokesperson.
Of course, putting a politician in an ad is a bit different in these polarizing times than it was even in the recent past. Giuliani is a controversial figure, and his choice of products to promote – MyPillow, a brand now tied to Trump, as founder Mike Lindell pushes election claims – is probably the least surprising thing about the spot.