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Glenn Beck and Mike Lee faced off in Utah’s most patriotic ice cream eating contest

Prominent Utah and national conservatives headlined a Founding Fathers-themed ice cream eating contest in Herriman, Utah

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Mike Lee and Glenn Beck eat patriotic ice cream in Utah

Sen. Mike Lee, left, and Glenn Beck participate in the Liberty Bell Monumental Sundae launch party at Brooker’s Founding Flavors Ice Cream in Herriman on June 25, 2021.

Office of Sen. Mike Lee

Maybe he wasn’t feeling well. Or maybe the thought of 13 hefty scoops of super-premium ice cream settling in his stomach — topped with nuts, whipped cream and sauce, and piled into a stainless steel replica of the Liberty Bell — caused Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes to take a pass.

“My physician just called,” Reyes joked, stepping away from a table at Brooker’s Founding Flavors Ice Cream in Herriman, where six of the foot-tall sundaes sat. “He says it’s a game-time injury.”

Scattered boos and playful jeers erupted, while the five other contestants in this June eating contest — a who’s-who of tea party-era conservatives — picked up their spoons and awaited their signal. On one side of the table, longtime radio host Glenn Beck sat next to U.S. Sen. Mike Lee. Across the table were Jake Bequette, a Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots and a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Arkansas; Eric Dowdle, a famous Utah painter known for his patriotic art; and Kevin Franke, a BYU professor whose family runs the popular YouTube channel 8 Passengers. Each wore a red “Brooker’s Founding Fathers” T-shirt and a tricorn hat.

Their goal? To complete the ice cream in half an hour — a debut of the Liberty Bell Monumental Sundae eating challenge. To win, overambitious eaters must down all 13 scoops — plus toppings — spilling out of an upside-down, forged-to-scale Liberty Bell replica, complete with the famous crack and all. Each bell, imported from Florida, costs over $3,000; if customers beat the fastest time, the ice cream is free. “This is kind of a big deal,” Brian Brooker, the store’s founder, told me. “There’s nothing like this in the country, or the world.”

But to Brooker, who wore a complete Revolutionary War-style costume to the event, the steel objet d’art takes a back seat to its contents — “the best ice cream, scientifically, you can get,” he says, boasting over 17% butterfat (hence the creaminess) and a frozen custard technique in production (thus, the thickness). Brooker’s favorite is George Washington’s Indispensable Flavor — a chocolate base with peanut butter cups — but the contestants’ troughs include scoops of James Madison’s Constitutional Crunch, Alexander Hamilton’s Not Throwing Away My Scoop and Patrick Henry’s Give Me Chocolate or Give Me Death, among others.

The highlight to Reyes, though, may not have been the ice cream, but the message. “It’s great to have ... (a small business) dedicated to educating people about the Constitution and our great history,” Reyes said on the “Rod Arquette Show” moments after the competition. “And, sure, we’ve made some mistakes in our history. But all these new philosophies that want to say that America is irredeemable and rotten to the core: not at all.”

Those “new philosophies” have become a top target for conservatives in recent months. Last summer, Lee said there was “an all-out war on the founding of our country by the elite liberal media,” as evidenced by movements to take down statues and memorials of U.S. historical figures. In a Deseret News op-ed last month, Lee claimed that “critical race theory” is “seeping into our foundational institutions and attacking what it means to be American.”

And Glenn Beck, despite purging the word “evil” from his lexicon while attempting to “heal the America he divided” in 2017, now calls some liberal ideologies “a special brand of evil.” Last month, his Conservative Political Action Conference speech focused on lessons from the Founding Fathers, and critiqued those on the political left as ignorant of our nation’s founding. “Do not moralize and tell me what our founders believe, when the left does not even know our founding documents,” he said. “They don’t know these men.”

Perhaps eating ice cream named after the founders may not combat “evil” ideas, but it is an enjoyable distraction. Reyes, shortly after announcing his “game-time injury,” passed the mic to singer David Osmond (Donny Osmond’s nephew), who served as the event’s emcee. “Here’s someone who wanted to be here but chickened out,” Osmond announced, holding up Brooker’s iPhone. “This is Mr. Tim Ballard!”

“It’s great to have ... (a small business) dedicated to educating people about the Constitution and our great history.” — Sean Reyes

Osmond passed the phone around, and Ballard — the founder of Operation Underground Railroad — greeted the contestants virtually. “He’s busy saving children,” Osmond claimed. “We’re doing real work here, Tim.” The crowd cheered, and someone screamed, “Ice cream!” (Brooker told me Ballard planned to attend but was filming a show with Candace Owens in Tennessee.)

“On your mark,” yelled Osmond. “Get set. Go!” Lee and Bequette got off to a quick start, shoveling soupy spoonfuls of half-melted ice cream into their mouths, though joking and laughing between bites. Reyes, the microphone again in hand, began an impromptu play-by-play. “Senator Mike Lee has jumped out to an early lead,” he said. “I haven’t seen him this focused since his first election.”

As Lee started digging into his ice cream, Reyes announced, “Mike Lee is trying to build a bridge, it looks like. He’s got a tunnel going. ... The Biden administration has just authorized $10 trillion to build a bridge,” he continued, likely referencing the $1 trillion bipartisan bill on physical infrastructure now up for debate in the Senate.

Lee paused, and raised a finger. “Now you’ll make me throw up,” he quipped.

At one point, Lee looked up from his mass of ice cream and humorously noted, “Not everything that is unhealthy is against the Word of Wisdom,” a nod to the health code practiced by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that prohibits the use of many addictive substances.

After half an hour, competitors weighed their respective Liberty Bells, one at a time, hoping theirs would be the lowest. “If I feel like this, and I lose, I’m going to be really unhappy,” Beck said, leaning back into his chair. He and Lee finished last — both with over 16 pounds, in ice cream and Liberty Bell steel, remaining. Lee later asked for a recount, prompting one onlooker to chirp, “Sen. Lee has asked for a reweigh!”

Bequette, the Super Bowl champ, came in second place, with 15.94 pounds left; Eric Dowdle, the artist, took first, with 14.66 pounds.

Rudy Giuliani is looking into this,” a disgruntled Beck joked. “He will expose this.”

Lee, after letting the ice cream digest, albeit momentarily, joined Arquette on his radio show to discuss his first Liberty Bell Monumental Sundae. An ice cream connoisseur, Lee told Fox News in 2017 the dessert is his guilty pleasure. Two years later, when the Washington Post asked Lee to pose with his favorite junk food, he brandished a heap of Aggie ice cream for the camera.

So when Arquette asked for Lee’s reaction to the flavor, he gave an educated assessment.

“The ice cream is extraordinary,” Lee said, his delight apparent. But the constitutional scholar let his real giddiness come out with the ice cream’s flavorful Americana — not just chocolate or vanilla, but patriotic chocolate or vanilla.

“You know, I can’t imagine anything that can make me more happy than a Constitution-themed ice cream parlor.”