Ted Pawlicki wants to make his name great again.
“It’s one of the best names around,” he told the Campus Times in an interview this week, laughing.
The 39-year-old Saint Paul, Minnesota video editor and producer had no idea what was happening last week when a string of conservatives started pinging his mostly inactive Twitter handle.
But then he read up, and realized a UR professor with whom he shares a name had been embroiled in controversy after posting on a student-run Facebook page that he’d pay the bus fare to Canada for people who think America isn’t theirs, as long as they promised to never come back.
The only difference is that the producer’s full first name is Theodore, while the professor’s is Thaddeus.
“Oh my gosh, this is crazy,” he recalled thinking of the Twitter users rushing to his defense. “It was just kind of funny.”
A left-leaning independent who despises President-elect Donald Trump, Pawlicki’s first instinct was to mess with his newfound fanbase, who had mistaken him for the Trump-supporting professor.
His wife, though, wasn’t keen on him starting a GoFundMe fundraiser and donating the money to a cause the followers would balk at, like Planned Parenthood.
When he saw what his counterpart had posted, he thought it might get some laughs. He didn’t expect the overwhelming outrage it provoked from students.
“I think it was just an emotional election,” he said. “Everyone was so invested in it.”
He took the post “for what it’s worth”—a joke.
“Maybe not the best joke, but it was still a joke,” he said.
Should his doctoral doppelganger have had to leave his position as undergraduate program director of the Department of Computer Science?
“Over a Facebook post?” he asked. Maybe if it was a violent or threatening one, but in this case, no.
“How many other people have sent out crazy Facebook posts?” he asked, before calling the response to the professor “an overreaction, in my opinion.”
“In retrospect, no, [he shouldn’t have posted it],” he said of the professor. “But it was a joke. People have to relax about it.”
He mused about how when Trump tweeted offensive things, he was handed the highest job in the land, but that when his professorial parallel did essentially the same, he was kicked out of his.
Pawlicki wasn’t as surprised with the upset result of the election as many were.
“Clinton didn’t run that good of a very inspiring campaign,” he said. “People are so sick of listening to talking-point politics.”
He branded some of Trump’s messages as racist and misogynistic, but said he “doesn’t not respect” Trump supporters because he understands why they went for him—they wanted something different.
“If he’s different—oh, man, I don’t know, there’s a lot of issues going on with the country if people think he’s a good choice,” he said.
He usually votes for who he thinks will do the best job, but this year he voted Democrat down the line. It was the first time he had done so, due entirely to Trump.
“The fears of what a Trump presidency could bring” compelled him, he said. “He’s a little scary to me.”
He cited Trump’s foreign policy—or lack thereof—and his environmental policies as his main concerns.
“That’s the thing that’s just gonna get smashed,” he said of the environment.
He was not a “Ra-ra-ra Hillary supporter”—he would have preferred Bernie Sanders, her Democratic primary opponent, similar to UR’s embattled educator.
The only positive Pawlicki took from the election was that, for him, it proved that democracy in America is alive and well.
“We can have some lunatic get elected because that’s who the people voted for,” he said, adding later, “Democracy at its work, baby, right there. It’s tough to swallow, but democracy, man, is a tough thing.”
Pawlicki, who has two young kids, grew up in Minnesota and graduated from the University of St. Thomas there, after studying elementary education and television and film.
Coincidentally, his wife’s parents also live in Rochester—the one in Minnesota.
He’s worked in Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Minneapolis as a video production high school teacher and as an editor and producer on several shows, including ABC News’ “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.”
In 2014, he and his co-workers won a Chicago/Midwest Emmy award for a DIY show called “Weekend Workbench.”
He’s also been involved in past election coverage: while in D.C., he was a “liaison” for Sky News, the British media outlet, who helped set up a crew with equipment and get them around the city.
He and the crew went to President Barack Obama’s first inauguration ceremony—“too important to be working,” he said.
But he’s not so interested in going to Trump’s.
“Yeah, I gotta check my schedule on that one.”