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Vince Fusca, who some suspect of being a Kennedy, is running for Senate as his own man

Vince Fusca, with supporters Veronica Steinkirschner and Chrstine Ree, at a petition-signing event on March 5, 2022.
Chris Potter
90.5 WESA
Vince Fusca, with supporters Veronica Steinkirschner and Chrstine Ree, at a petition-signing event on March 5, 2022.

Step aside, Dr. Oz: A different kind of national celebrity — albeit one best known inside a national movement on the fringe of politics — is running for Senate in Pennsylvania.

Republican Vince Fusca, who has attracted speculation within the so-called QAnon movement that he may actually be the late John F. Kennedy Jr., began gathering petitions for his Senate bid in Monroeville Saturday.

"I threw my hat in the ring because there's too much happening in our nation right now that isn't right: our border, our crime going up, our educational system falling apart,” the fedora-wearing Fusca told WESA at the event.

Fusca said he wants to bring the country “into the future. I want to bring my nation where it should be.” Asked to describe what that future would look like, he joked, “The Jetsons. No potholes — flying cars, boom!”

But he did not directly address the question a WESA reporter was obliged to ask: whether he is actually John F. Kennedy Jr., the son of the 35th U.S. president.

“We're going to leave that for another time, because right now it's about getting the signatures for us to get there,” he said. “We can go in so many different directions with JFK Jr. and other movements. But let's stick to the matter at hand right now.”

Kennedy died, along with his wife and sister-in-law, on July 16, 1999 when a single-engine plane that he was piloting crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. But a segment of the QAnon movement — which among other things holds that Donald Trump has been waging a secret war against a global network of Satan-worshiping pedophiles — believes Kennedy is still alive and will serve as vice-president when Trump returns to power.

And some devotees of the theory believe that Fusca is actually Kennedy in disguise.

Fusca has been a familiar presence at Trump rallies and other conservative events, known by his signature hat and the heavily decorated “Trump Mobile” he drives to celebrate the 45th president. Theories about his true origins have spawned mockery but also social-media fandom and merchandising opportunities.

Fusca doesn’t exactly appear to discourage the speculation. On Saturday, he wore a T-shirt advertising George magazine, a now-defunct political and lifestyle monthly that the younger Kennedy founded in the 1990s.

When a WESA reporter asked whether the shirt was intended “to encourage me to think you might be JFK Jr.,” Fusca said, “No, that’s encouraging you to do this interview to the best of your ability because you're a professional, and we have to stick to the matter at hand. … We want to put our nation back on track.” 

Fusca has yet to articulate a policy platform, but so far his campaign sounds familiar Republican themes. His campaign touts his own life story as an Italian-born immigrant who came to America as a child, started a fashion clothing boutique (media accounts elsewhere have reported that he works in financial services) and went on to become a dedicated Trump supporter.

In a campaign video posted last month, he decried “woke teachers that work for the unions” while video footage shows a masked student watching as a teacher sprays her school desk with what is presumably a disinfectant.

While Fusca touts his own Italian heritage, the video suggests that race and ethnicity loom too large in American culture: “Nobody had to tell us who we were. … We went on to find the American Dream together.”

“How much longer can they keep insulting us?” Fusca asks in the video, without precisely identifying who "they" are. “I don’t think too much longer, guys.”

About a dozen supporters attended Saturday’s event. Some sought signatures for Fusca’s nominating petitions in an adjoining parking lot or stood along Route 22 with a Fusca sign in hopes of drumming up support from passing motorists.

WESA spoke to several attendees. None said they believed that Fusca is Kennedy, noting among other things the almost total lack of a physical resemblance between the two men. In fact, the attribute for which they praised Fusca most was something a political scion like Kennedy would arguably have a hard time claiming: a grassroots, everyman quality.

Fusca “doesn't have the connections, the backing from maybe the wrong people,” said Robert Ree, a supporter from Moon. “He's one of us. He's not one of these politicians that have been bought and paid for for years. And that's the kind of stuff we need to get out of this country.”

“It's the other way round: JFK Jr. is him,” joked Christine Ree, who is married to Robert Ree and who is working with the Fusca campaign. “His patriotism, his love of country is infectious, and we need more people like him.”

“I watched this guy put his own money into following Trump around, trying to spread the word,” said another supporter, who identified himself only as “CJ.” He said Fusca was doing “the stuff we were taught when we were kids: If you want to change the world, get out there and change the world.”

The supporters said while they’ve never asked Fusca about whether he was Kennedy, the question was difficult to avoid.

“I don't believe he's JFK. You know, he doesn't take off a mask,” said Christine Sypien. At political events she attends with Fusca, she said, “We get it constantly, you know, ‘Who is he? Is it really —?’ And I'm like, ‘Not that I know of.’”

Supporters who talked to WESA said they were mystified about the origins for the belief — or a similar rumor that Fusca is, in fact, the late country music star John Denver, who also died while piloting a private plane.

That said, some Fusca supporters espoused theories about the government that are no less extreme, and they weren’t hostile to speculation about Fusca’s identity.

“Vince is not JFK Jr. Not at all,” said Christine Ree. Still, she said conceded that it was hard for people to know what was true anymore. “I don't believe things I see with my own eyes now. .. [Y]ou see enough things. You give enough time. You let enough truth come out.… I believe in people doing research and finding the truth.”

Of course, while being a member of the Kennedy family might seem like a political boost, it would likely be fatal to Fusca’s bid. The campaign’s petitions identify the candidate as “Vincent Fusca,” a small-business owner from Churchill. If Fusca were actually John F. Kennedy Jr., his candidate affidavit would be false, and his petitions potentially tossed out.

Asked about that concern on Saturday, Fusca said, “You’re signing for what the petition says.”

Nearly three decades after leaving home for college, Chris Potter now lives four miles from the house he grew up in -- a testament either to the charm of the South Hills or to a simple lack of ambition. In the intervening years, Potter held a variety of jobs, including asbestos abatement engineer and ice-cream truck driver. He has also worked for a number of local media outlets, only some of which then went out of business. After serving as the editor of Pittsburgh City Paper for a decade, he covered politics and government at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He has won some awards during the course of his quarter-century journalistic career, but then even a blind squirrel sometimes digs up an acorn.