Here’s a little light reading that will give you a good laugh — which, of course, you’ll need if you’re going to allow the thought of President Rick Santorum into your brain. Just remember, though: Every time you click the link, you make the Baby Jesus cry:
Rick Santorum would very much like to be president. For the past few years, he has been diligently appearing at the sorts of conservative events—the Values Voters Summit, the Conservative Political Action Conference—where aspiring Republican candidates are expected to show up. But before he starts printing “Santorum 2012” bumper stickers, there’s one issue the former GOP senator and his strategists need to address. You see, Santorum has what you might call a Google problem. For voters who decide to look him up online, one of the top three search results is usually the site SpreadingSantorum.com, which explains that Santorum’s last name is a sexual neologism for “the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex.”
Santorum’s problem got its start back in 2003, when the then-senator from Pennsylvania compared homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia, saying the “definition of marriage” has never included “man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be.” The ensuing controversy prompted syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage, who’s gay, to start a contest, soliciting reader suggestions for slang terms to “memorialize the scandal.” The winner came up with the “frothy mixture” idea, Savage launched a website, and a meme was born. Even though mainstream news outlets would never link to it, Savage’s site rose in the Google rankings, thanks in part to bloggers who posted Santorum-related news on the site or linked to it from their blogs. Eventually it eclipsed Santorum’s own campaign site in search results; some observers even suggested it may have contributed to Santorum’s crushing 18-point defeat in his 2006 campaign against Bob Casey.
Savage says his site hasn’t been updated for years, yet it remains entrenched in the Google rankings. Not even Santorum’s ascent as a Fox News contributor or his early campaign swings through the key primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire have managed to bury it. With Google results like this, what’s an aspiring presidential candidate to do?
I wanted to ask Santorum whether he had a strategy for scrubbing his Web presence, but he didn’t return my calls. So instead, I asked a few experts. “This is an unusual problem,” says Michael Fertik, CEO of ReputationDefender, which specializes in helping individuals maintain a positive Web presence. “It’s devastating. This is one of the more creative and salient Google issues I’ve ever seen.”