Pennsylvania delegate Mike McMullen got House Speaker Paul Ryan to commit one of the greatest acts of pandering in the entire 2016 cycle during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
And he did it by throwing in the towel.
Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican and avid fan of the Green Bay Packers, is a minority owner of Wisconsin’s NFL team. It costs just about $400 to be one, he said.
But at a breakfast for the Pennsylvania delegation, Ryan was caught doing something that would be treasonous for a Packers fan — waving the famous “Terrible Towel” of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I want to win the election so darn badly, that I’m willing to do this,” he said, twirling the towel.
He also made a bold prediction for the upcoming NFL season.
“We will see you guys in the Super Bowl in January,” he said of a Steelers-Packers matchup. “Go Pack and the other teams you guys like.”
McMullen, who was attending his fourth GOP convention, stood out from his fellow Pennsylvania delegates much as the Texas delegation stands out by wearing cowboy outfits and the Hawaii delegation wears luaus and Hawaiian shirts to distinguish themselves.
He decided to wear solely Pittsburgh sports gear for the duration of the convention.
Talking to Business Insider, McMullen revealed that it was his “Terrible Towel” that Ryan waved to the large audience. And, he said, there was nothing scripted about it.
As Rep Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania was introducing Ryan to the crowd, he looked over at McMullen, who was wearing a Steelers jersey, and made a joke about Ryan being a minority owner of the Packers.
“[Ryan] saw me and he just started talking rivalry and I was like sitting like ten feet away,” McMullen said. “And I threw [the towel] right at him.”
The moment was a huge hit back home with Pittsburgh media, and McMullen said a representative from the Steelers even spoke with him about the incident in Cleveland — suggesting the team might have some fun with it.
McMullen said he’s a big fan of Ryan aside from the unscripted towel wave. He thinks Ryan has a legitimate shot at winning the Republican nomination in 2020 or 2024, whichever year is open for contention, although he admits he wants him as House speaker so he can “set the agenda and set the tone.”
For his part, Ryan seemed to have no problem waving the most pro-Steelers merchandise he could.
“You’re a pretty big delegation, 20 electoral votes,” he said. “You could make the decision on this. You could decide this whole thing Pennsylvania.”
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