Julia Silge was desperate to reach her senator last Monday.
The 38-year-old Utah resident had strong opinions about President Trump's nominee for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, and felt she needed to air her concerns before DeVos's final Senate confirmation hearing.
For weeks, Silge had tried dialing the Salt Lake City office of Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), but no one ever answered the phone. She had gotten through once, in January, and left a message, but it was never returned. After that, Hatch's voice-mail box seemed to be perpetually full.
Having exhausted her options, Silge tried the next best route she could think of: She pulled up GrubHub, a food delivery service app, and ordered a 12-inch ham-and-pineapple pizza for delivery to Hatch's office.
Under “Special Instructions,” Silge requested the following note be attached to the pizza box: “From a Salt Lake constituent in 84105: Please vote NO on Betsy DeVos. She is an inappropriate choice to lead our public schools.”
For good measure, Silge included a $10 tip “in the hopes of it actually happening.”
Then she submitted the order, and waited. For fun, Silge took a screenshot of her order and posted it on Twitter, where she continued to provide live updates about her unusual last-ditch effort to contact Hatch's office.
“I just got a phone call from the delivery person asking me where in the federal office building to go; she is actually delivering it!” Silge tweeted shortly after submitting the order.
Ten minutes later, she returned with another, less exuberant update.
“I am sad to report that my senator's office refused delivery of the pizza,” Silge tweeted, along with sad-face and pizza emoji.
Several hours later, Silge said she received a call from security at the Salt Lake City federal office building, where Hatch's office was located.
“I have gotten a call about a suspicious pizza,” she said the security person told her. Though Silge said the security person was “pretty chill with me,” it turned out Hatch's office had reported the unauthorized pizza delivery to police, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, who first reported the story.
“I definitely had like an, 'Oh, what did I do?' moment when this person was calling me,” Silge told The Washington Post on Monday. “At that time, I was feeling very frustrated and I kind of made this snap decision.”
To her relief, the security person verified key facts — including the pizza toppings on the pie that had been delivered — and told her her story checked out.
“Since it was not actually a threat of any kind and I had not actually broken any rules, there were no ramifications,” Silge said.
A call to Hatch's Salt Lake City office early Monday morning was routed to a general voice-mail box, which did accept a message. The call was not immediately returned.
A spokesman for Hatch's Washington office told The Post on Monday that they actually saw the pizza saga on social media as it was unfolding.
“We appreciate all creative efforts to reach Senator Hatch, particularly as we deal with a large volume of out-of-state callers that are preventing Utah constituents from reaching us,” Hatch's office said in an email statement. “Unfortunately, the pizza did not make it through security screening because the office had not ordered it. As a result, we did not see the message attached to the pizza.”
They have, however, since informed Hatch about Silge's concerns.
“In the future, if constituents would like to tag us with a message when they send food to their local homeless shelter, we will be certain to share those thoughts with the Senator as well,” the statement added.
A spokesman for Hatch's office said their phone lines have been tied up with an enormous volume of calls, about 80 percent of which are “robo-calls” from outside Utah. Last Thursday, he said, the Washington office received 600 calls in a four-hour period from the state of Washington, as recorded in logs that make note of callers' Zip codes.
The spokesman added that the senator does, in fact, like pizza — including of the ham-and-pineapple variety — but declined to say whether Hatch had been swayed by feedback from Silge or any other constituents regarding DeVos. Instead, the spokesman referred to an interview Hatch did with KSL Broadcasting on Friday in which the senator spoke favorably and optimistically about DeVos's nomination.
“It's easy to support Betsy DeVos,” Hatch said in the interview. “She is a crusader in education who has the same concerns that all of us have had. … Some of the criticisms of her have really been awful.”
After DeVos was announced as the nominee last November, Hatch released a statement saying he was “excited” about the pick and looked forward to working with her to preserve local control of education.
DeVos's nomination has elicited strong backlash from Democrats and other critics who say she lacks the experience for the job. Videos of DeVos at a confirmation hearing in January, in which she appeared confused about the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, were widely shared. She has also declined to take a stand on whether guns belong in schools.
The Senate is scheduled to vote Tuesday on DeVos's nomination. Two Republicans — Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) — have said they will join all 48 Democratic senators in opposing DeVos. However, Vice President Pence is expected to cast a tiebreaking vote for DeVos.
Silge said she knew Hatch was likely to vote for DeVos but that only fueled her desire to contact him. She said she has not been particularly politically engaged in the past but grew concerned after watching DeVos's confirmation hearing in January.
“I wanted to communicate that I was not in favor of this,” said Silge, a mother of three whose children attend Utah public schools. “As someone who represents me, I wanted him to know.”
Hatch's office, she said, has since reached out to her to try to arrange a lunch in Utah with the senator. (It is unclear whether they will go out for pizza, she added.)
As for the wayward pie, Silge said she didn't expect her post to go viral. And to her surprise, quite a few of the comments she's received have focused on the type of pizza she sent to Hatch's office.
“I personally am a fan,” she said of the ham-and-pineapple toppings. “It turns out this was a very controversial choice that I made. Much like Betsy DeVos is a controversial, divisive choice.”