• Jeff Schober

Sidebar: Jackass of the day

Updated: Oct 17, 2018

Self-professed liberal Democrat Tony Sabuda revels in being called out by Bill O'Reilly

Tony Sabuda shows off memorabilia from Barack Obama's visit, including the Presiden'ts reciept from Duffs. © Photo by Steven D. Desmond

     During the plant tour, President Obama noticed an unfamiliar apparatus sitting on a table. Three feet wide, it was assembled from PVC pipe with three cups, an attached tube, and a handle before each.

     “What is this for?” he asked.

     It was part of a physics experiment, the President was told. It was a launch pad for empty plastic pop bottles.

     “He was like a little kid,” recalled Tony Sabuda as he and David Sullivan explained its purpose.

“You put three Aquafina bottles on a manifold. One is empty, one is half full with water, and the other is completely full,” Sabuda said. “They’re pressurized and you see which one will fly farthest. But the Secret Service didn’t want us to demonstrate it because we’d be shooting off rockets. It would make a big popping sound. We told all this to the President.”

     Sullivan remembers Obama’s sly grin. Seconds earlier, he had encouraged a reporter to ride a working hovercraft. This looked like another opportunity for hijinks.

     “Oh, we’re doing that,” the President said, laughing.

     After bottles were fitted onto the device, they were aimed straight up. (“My dumbass sales manager pointed it at the ceiling,” Sullivan groaned.) Weeks earlier, coke bottles had been launched in the parking lot. But inside the warehouse, a sprinkler system ran overhead. Sullivan envisioned the collision that might set off a shower, drenching everyone.

     “Hold it, hold it!” Sullivan yelled, waving his arms.

     Obama mimicked his actions. “Hold it, hold it,” he echoed.

     The trajectory was adjusted so bottles pointed toward a high metal wall on the building’s far side. Reporters directly in the flight path were asked to move aside.

     While people milled about, Sullivan warned their demonstration could be dangerous.

     “Everybody’s got to get out of the way,” Sullivan instructed.

     “Except for the reporter from Fox News,” Sabuda added. He pointed at the empty space. “You stand right there.”

     Everyone laughed. Obama offered a high-five and a half-hug.

     The silly exchange might have been forgotten, except someone took video. The clip became a national issue that night.

     “After dark, I got a call from one of my friends saying I was on Bill O’Reilly,” Sabuda said. “I’m a liberal Democrat and I wear it on my sleeve. O’Reilly played the clip, and labelled me the jackass of the day. People were asking, who’s that idiot wearing the blue shirt? And then I started getting hate emails from Fox News fans. They’d say your company is going down, you’re a big failure. I responded that I was just being fair and balanced.

     “Being called a jackass by Bill O’Reilly….” Sabuda paused, then continued proudly. “Other than the birth of my children, this was the high point of my life.”

© 2018 by Jeff Schober


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