For most of his career, Guy Fieri has managed to keep his brand relatively apolitical. Now that he’s been photographed with Donald Trump, however, the bleach-tipped celebrity chef might be starting to feel the heat.
On Saturday, Fieri was photographed meeting the recently indicted former president at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas during UFC 290. NBC News reports that the two chatted at the mixed martial arts event, where Trump was also spotted talking to Mel Gibson and Mark Wahlberg. Turning Point USA creative director Benny Johnson tweeted out a photo of Fieri and Trump together on Sunday, writing, “2024 unity ticket.”
Fieri’s face is not visible enough in the photos to gauge his expression, but he can be seen facing Trump with his hand on the former president’s arm. Representatives for Fieri and Discovery, whose networks carry Fieri’s series, did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.
Unsurprisingly, the Trump photo has set Flavortown on fire. Sideways glances now abound on Twitter, including from the viral account Pop Crave, which shared the photo with the coy caption, “Guy Fieri greeting criminal defendant Donald Trump at UFC 290 in Las Vegas.” Meanwhile, White Stripes frontman Jack White shared photos of Fieri and other celebrities who reportedly met with Trump at UFC and called them all “disgusting.”
“Anybody who ‘normalizes’ or treats this disgusting fascist, racist, con man, disgusting piece of shit Trump with any level of respect is ALSO disgusting in my book,” White wrote on Instagram. “That’s you Joe Rogan, you Mel Gibson, you Mark Wahlberg, you Guy Fieri. This is a statement from me, not a discussion/debate.”
The ire surrounding Fieri feels like an echo of something we saw before, when Ellen DeGeneres was photographed palling around with former President George W. Bush at a Dallas Cowboys game in 2019. Then, like now, a relatively benign celebrity’s politics have been thrust into the limelight, replacing fans’ blissful, comforting ignorance with skepticism.
The controversy over Fieri’s photo opp has also resurfaced some of his past controversies. In 2021, the AV Club documented the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives host’s rise as a modern folk hero thanks to his fundraising efforts during the pandemic. At the same time, writer Matt Schimkowitz pointed out, Fieri remains a “political Rorschach test” who skirts direct questions about his personal views.
On one hand, Fieri can sometimes gesture toward progressive allyship—like the Bernie Sanders meme he posted in 2021 with the caption, “Not me. Us.”
Six months after posting that meme, however, Fieri scolded restaurant workers who had not returned to work during an interview with the New York Times. Rather than address workers’ concerns about their jobs—which Eater pointed out at the time included COVID risk, low wages, and paltry childcare and sick leave—he compared them to spoiled children.
“Why would you go and eat broccoli,” Fieri asked, “if you just got to eat Doritos?”
Fans on social media have also posted articles about the snarl of allegations that emerged more than a decade ago, when former Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives producer David Page sued Food Network for breach of contract. The network countersued months later, alleging that Page had made the workplace “intolerable” for staff. The parties eventually settled, and two months later, Page blasted Fieri with separate allegations.
In a 2011 City Pages article preserved by the Internet Archive, Page alleged that Fieri made homophobic comments during DDD’s production. At one point, Page alleged, the host said, “You can’t send me to talk to gay people without warning! Those people weird me out!”
The ex-producer also claimed that Fieri had made an anti-Semitic remark toward him during a monetary dispute, that he used lewd humor in the workplace, and that when cutting the show together, DDD editors needed “to watch Guy’s eyeline, because it’s always on breasts.”
Fieri declined to comment on the City Pages article. After the article’s publication, a representative for Fieri told Eater, “Guy’s reputation speaks for itself. He’s a standup guy who does right by people. He would never make the kind of comments attributed to him in this story, and anyone who knows or has even met him knows that. That Mr. Page made these sadly desperate statements says more about him than it does about Guy or anyone on the Food Network team.”
A “source with knowledge of the situation” also told Eater that Page’s allegations were “fantasies,” and that the City Pages article was full of “omissions,” “basic errors,” and “complete fabrications.” Meanwhile, a source pointed out to Gothamist that Fieri’s late sister was homosexual and that his longtime business partner and close friend is also Jewish.
For now, only time will tell how the Trump photos will affect Fieri’s brand: Will this tank the goodwill he built during the pandemic, or can he ride it out by keeping quiet? The state of the union in Flavortown, meanwhile, remains in shambles.