On this first episode of Cool and Unusual Punishment’s special series, “Luginbilled: The Story of Eau Claire’s Music Man,” we do a deep dive into the media’s negligence in fact-checking the many exaggerated stories of Joe Luginbill. Because we value validating our information here at the podcast, we are providing for you a list of links and screenshots referenced in the show. If you’re looking for a complicated story of political leverage…stick around until the end. Cool & Unusual Punishment is a member of the Nerd & Tie Network! Find more shows from N&T at their website in the show notes.
Tyler: Uh, tell me who we're gonna be talking about.
Joe [recorded]: Today I'm cooking up Southern style shrimp and Southern occasion pasta. I’m ‘Joe’s Kitchen.’
Jodie: This is a good introduction to who Joe Luginbill presents himself as, alright. I'm going to read first to you, a bio from his website on December 9th, 2012. Bear with me, because I think part of the fascinating trajectory of, of Joe's life in Eau Claire, um, is the differences in his biographies as time goes by. So I wanted to highlight a couple of these different biographies. I just want you to see if you can see the tone change.
Tyler: And these are biographies coming from-
Jodie: joeluginbill dot com. So december 9th, 2012. “Joe Luginbill is a nationally renowned chef, businessman and Internet and television personality. And, yes, he is only 18. Most well known for his web and radio shows of the same name, Joe's Kitchen, Luginbill blends his youthful energy and love of cooking to share his skills and passion with the world.
Quote, “Suddenly, Joe became a local and international celebrity. His cooking show, Joe's Kitchen, which is a mix of comedy and cooking, has attracted more than a million viewers at the age of 18. Joe Luginbill is one of the youngest business executives in the country. His work has been called ‘very admirable’ by food guru Martha Stewart. He has been featured on countless media outlets, spoken at numerous culinary events and received impressive awards, including being ranked number one on Rankers list of most entertaining celebrity chefs of 2012, and is a finalist for the ‘American Made awards.’ You will want to watch for him on television in the near future. It goes without saying that Joe Luginbill is doing amazing things in the culinary and business world, and will continue to inspire and innovate.”
So in 2015, he would have been 20. So from February 16th 2015, we have to remember, this is the same guy whose bio I just read on his same website, from just a few years earlier.
“Quick facts about Joe Luginbill, Born raised and educated in Eau Claire, homeowner and taxpayer, active member of Good Shepherd Church, private sector businessman, community focused, serves on several boards. Local volunteer. Luginbill is currently serving on the City of Eau Claire utility appeals board, Alliance for Strong Communities Executive Board, the Eau Clare County Industrial Development Agency, Alliance Council for Substance Abuse Prevention, and the Eau Claire Rubies Pantry Executive board. In addition, he is the elected treasurer of the Good Shepherd Church Council, where he chairs the finance and budget committees. In the fall of 2014, he was asked to serve as the chairman of the newly launched More Kids Drug Free campaign in western Wisconsin. Under his leadership, the campaign has been endorsed by a number of political leaders, including Wisconsin governor at the time Scott Walker and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke. He regularly attends a Lutheran church of the Good Shepherd. He owns a house on the west side of Eau Claire, where he is also involved in the neighborhood association. He's on the Easter Egg Roll Committee for the local Boy Scouts Council. He was the host of the regionally syndicated Business and politics talk program ‘The Joe Luginbill Show.’
Tyler: I get the distinct sense from the second bio that he is positioning himself to...as a forward facing self, he's positioned himself a little differently. But this is also a difference of two years from him being 18 to 20.
Jodie: Three years. I mean, maybe a little less.
Tyler: But being an entertainer and chef, to a community leader in three years in his late teens, Okay.
Jodie: Yeah. And all of these things which were heavily profiled in his first bio, are now reduced to “He created additional videos which were highly popular online.”
So, that was February 16th 2015. We're going to go to January 15th, 2018, and at this time, the website is JoeLuginbillschoolboard. So this one, he's on the school board.
“A recipient of the Judge Jefferson Award for public Service, Joe places a high priority on giving back to his community. In 2015, he was elected to the Eau Claire School board. He is the youngest elected official in Eau Claire history and the first to be born in the nineties. Luginbill is an inducted member of the National Young Elected Officials Network. He's been elected by his colleagues to serve as vice president and clerk of the board. He has been named as the Chippewa Valley’s favorite elected official in the Volume One Reader poll. As a member, Joe serves on the district's Policy and Governance Committee, is the chairman Demographics, Trends and Facilities Planning Committee and, as a special education, leads on and legislative liaison. Additionally, he is a voting delegate to the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, and a member of the Statewide Policy and Resolutions Committee. He's a trained child welfare worker through the Wisconsin Child Welfare Professional Development System and UW Madison. He holds professional designations and hazard communication from OSHA ethics and boundaries from UW River Falls, public information officer through FEMA, an organizational sustainability certificate from the Midwest Counter-Drug Training Center and Safe Spaces Training from the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin. In 2012, he founded a namesake business to create brand and marketing content. Joe's work has been featured online and in retail locations, including GlaxoSmithKline, Push Page, Recipe Class, BAK, Celebrity Chef Network, My Ally Recipes, Tutor, Silver Spring Foods and Mega Foods. He was the host of a radio program, The Joe Luginbill Show, that aired through blog talk radio. He has been the host of additional cooking and lifestyle videos and has worked in a brand ambassador capacity for a number of companies. Joe also lent his voice as the main character in a Children's educational computer game, ‘The Adventures of Captain Ion and Woody.’”
So that's his bio in 2018. If you go to October 31st of 2019 and you click on ‘about Joe,’
“He's an effective leader. Whether in the halls of the United Nations or through his work, is a non profit and government leader, Joe has been an effective policy maker and fighter for Children and families. Joe's ambition is to keep learning, keep creating and keep exploring his lifestyle. Cooking and edutainment content has reached diverse audiences from across the United States. He is a trusted and friendly face for consumers and brands alike. Inspired by his work as a child welfare professional serving children, Joe launched his 501C3 nonprofit Children's Foundation called the Luginbill Children's Foundation, an ambitious charitable enterprise with over a dozen programs serving youth.”
Tyler: Sorry, the halls of the United Nations?
Jodie: Yeah, well back in August on August 5th, 2019 August 5th 2019. It says that he was selected to participate in the 2019 International Forum on Youth Services in India, “Luginbill said a full report on the summit will be presented to the United Nations.”
Um, I'm not sure if that's where ‘the halls of the United Nations’ comes from.
Jodie: Okay, so that is the Joe Luginbill that we've been presented with since 2012. The reason why we're talking about all of this is because there's been some cracks right, and I think I would like to go back and visit a few of the local articles done on Joe. And then we can talk about the cracks that have been discovered by me with the help of some friends.
So if you're listening to this show, maybe this is your first time listening, because you're curious about this topic. I have posted a link to a story that Volume one did. And that story first was published on Thursday, September 6th of 2012. So before the story, the editor's Note as of January 28th 2020 says “recent news about former Eau Claire school board member Joe Luginbill has drawn reader's attention to previous coverage of Luginbill, including this article and others published and aired by other local media outlets. In light of the news, some have called into question the veracity of Luginbill’s claims about the early success of his Internet cooking show. But to date there has been no clear evidence presented that his assertions were either true or false. However, the YouTube view counts on his cooking shows were, in fact, present at the time this article was posted, which was the impetus for our coverage.”
All right, so back in 2012, Volume one wrote--Volume one is a local news and-- I'd say more on the entertainment side of things, magazine. So back in 2012, they start hearing about this Joe Luginbill, because of this paragraph, I'm going to read you from the story that Volume one did--
“With some additional filming help from his other sister, Anissa, who used their home video camera and some basic editing done in iMovie, Joe's Kitchen made its YouTube debut on what would have been Julia Child's 100th birthday, August 5th, 2012. By 11 a.m. On August 16th, it had already had an incredible 1.2 million views. You may be wondering why or how that is possible. Even Joe himself had a similar response, describing his instant popularity as quote ‘kind of crazy’ going on to define it as ‘just luck’ and the ‘perfect storm.’
Joe was notified via text from a friend that he was blowing up in the world of YouTube. He describes his initial reaction to the bulk of viewers and acknowledgement, ‘My jaw dropped and I started laughing. It was kind of surreal.’ One of the major reasons for the massive amount of YouTube views, aside from his charismatic personality and comfort in the kitchen, may have been the recognition and received on Twitter the very same day that it was posted. In honor of celebrating Julia Child's birthday, her official Twitter page, shared the Joe's Kitchen video, allowing it to be seen around the world by millions of people. He has also been bombarded with emails from various talent agencies and TV networks, including Martha Stewart's publicist, become a contender for Volume one's favorite local celebrity, and been featured in Cooking Teens magazine. With so many views, Joe was bound to experience some heckling, all of which he takes with a grain of salt, literally.”
So in that article, he credits this retweet, this huge Retweet by Julia Childs’ Twitter Page as being kind of the impetus. And the Twitter feed cited is called JC100. This was a Twitter handle, as far as I can tell--I don't know if you can check and see if it's still active, but JC100 joined Twitter in March of 2012. It's called Celebrating 100 Years of Julia Child. It must be some sort of, uh, anniversary type thing, you know, with her birthday and passing and everything else.
It had 1345 followers. So I have that Twitter page captured from the time frame that Joe Luginbill said his video was retweeted by this page, which is not marked official. I'm not sure if they did that in 2012. When I look at the feed, which I will share, it appeared as though anybody who hashtagged or tweeted to them something in celebration of Julia Child's birthday was going to get a retweet, like happy birthday. To one of my idols, um, happy hour starts on the patio. This is some restaurant who's just, you know, @JC100. It's, you know, people with--going to restaurants. ‘Here's a chicken in the oven’ that some person posted. So Joe Luginbill’s handle on Twitter was called @JosephLuginbill. His video is not there. The very thing that was supposed to boost these millions of views. It doesn't exist.
Tyler: Yeah. Tumble Dry Comics has that many. Like I do not have the power to boost a million views like, that's not, that's just-
Jodie: That’s just not gonna happen, right? It's just not gonna happen if it was there, it wouldn’t happen, and it's not there. You know, there's this editor's note on Volume one standing by their journalism. And in the course of 10 minutes, I have discounted one of the claims in this article.
All I'm saying is, I can say about myself, and I've been in Volume one. I could tell them that my podcast, when I was featured in there for the old podcast, I could have told them that we had 1000 downloads a day.
Tyler: Yeah, and that's more what I'm curious about is that, even if they were right, even if everything was as it seemed when they wrote that article, what I don't understand yet is, under the best case scenario, I don't know how a cooking video with a million views gets you that, like, people go viral a lot. And it doesn't It doesn't send--it doesn't make them leaders of their community. Like something has to happen in between that.
Jodie: Right. I don't know what, because everybody I've talked to doesn't know what. We can perhaps save that for another podcast. Because that's a great question, right? I don't know at what point in Joe Luginbill’s life, did donations start playing a part in what he was doing.
OK, so there was this Ranker poll that-
Tyler: You mentioned it in the bio.
Jodie: Yeah, and anybody can do a ranker poll.
Tyler: What is a Ranker poll?
Jodie: It's like a website where you basically throw 10 names or however many-
Tyler: You create the poll, and then you can, like, share it?
Jodie: Yeah, this poll that he cites many times had 280 votes on it, and this was the most entertaining celebrity chef of 2012. 280 voters. Joe Luginbill is number one with 75 thumbs up, 26 thumbs down. He narrowly edges out Gordon Ramsay, who had 73 thumbs up and 50 thumbs down. I will show screen grabs of this. The top five is rounded out--
Tyler: Better luck next time, Gordon Ramsay.
Jodie: Next we've got number three, Joe Luginbill beats out Anthony Bourdain, Alton Brown and Bobby Flay.
Tyler: Again, I am less critical of the methods. I'm guessing this is a pole Joe Luginbill made and shared on his social media and his friends and family voted about 280 times-
Jodie: And then the poll closed.
Tyler: So, like that Volume one article and this poll, like, it seems like a harmless enough thing to do. And I don't want it to come as petty that we're talking about it. The reason I think these things are important, and I think you would agree, is that, uh, some guy making a poll that says he's the best celebrity chef of 2012, like, is harmless except that he has a lot of power and Eau Claire. And in trying to track his trajectory from “guy who makes videos on YouTube” to like “community leader in Eau Claire,” I think this probably had a lot to do with it, in that he was building a name for himself on things like Ranker polls.
Jodie: Mmhmm. On its own, you know, if you're 18 or whatever, and you make a ranker poll, and you manage to beat out Garden Ramsey, I mean, I would, you know--
Tyler: It’s like when you make a new podcast, if it, uh, if it's doing well in its 1st week or whatever, and and it's it's trending for a week, and, like people make the joke of, like, take the screenshot where they're above Marc Maron for a day, and then it's like using that on your resume for the rest of your life.
Jodie: So Ranker poll happens. Then, WEAU dot com, TV 13 is, uh, NBC affiliate out of Eau Claire Wisconsin posts this. October 5th, 2012. “Have you heard of Joe Luginbill? He's an Eau Claire teenager who's making quite a splash in the cooking world. His web cooking show, Joe's Kitchen, has millions of followers on YouTube, and he also has a radio show on Los Angeles talk radio.”
Tyler: Okay, just a quick fact check. Was it accurate? Does he have millions of followers on YouTube or millions of views? Because there's a difference between the two. Uh, you know, you get--you make money, you make a significant amount of money If you have millions of followers.
Jodie: Yeah, I believe it was millions of views.
Tyler: Okay, I would also believe that maybe WEAU…
Jodie: -Doesn't know the difference, especially in 2012. “He was also recently ranked as the number one most entertaining celebrity chef on the website Ranker dot com.”
Tyler: Okay, yep, this is--now I’m figuring out-
Jodie: And then it goes on to talk about he's going to open some, start some Luginbill Omnimedia Diversified Media Super Corporation. Alright. WEAU does this story, and what I have here is what you're already recognizing, what I wrote down.
Okay, so let's talk about this for a minute. What do you see is a real problem here? Aside from the obvious Joe Luginbill self promotion kind of-
Tyler: An 18 year old making YouTube videos and, um, overstating his popularity is not uncommon, and it's not really offensive. But these articles like the ones that are being written about, um are, A, irresponsible, and B, they are the seeds of legitimacy that, like-- the things that the news articles were written about-- based on, matter less now, because now he has a news article about him, and that actually does have legitimacy.
Tyler: It's like the promotional equivalent of the guy who traded a red paperclip on eBay up and up until he bought a house like, that's what I feel like is happening right now.
Jodie: Leader Telegram in 2013 had a story. “Stewart wasn't the only big name celebrity Luginbill was paired with as his brand spread. He continued to receive interview requests from radio programs and congratulatory messages from well known icons ranging from Donald Trump, to former Wisconsin Democratic US senator Herb Kohl. His favorite interview was with Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, one of the Cardinals on the shortlist to be named the Pope.
Tyler: Have you looked for that interview?
Jodie: Yeah, there isn't an interview. What there is, uh, a scandal of sorts in which there were bots that were replicating these cardinals.
Tyler: Like online. This was like, on social media?
Jodie: Yeah, it was on Twitter.
Tyler: Cardinal bots.
Jodie: Yeah, I suppose it came up when--because they were choosing the new pope, you know. I think what Joe might have done sometimes is, used Twitter to just tweet at anybody famous so that he might get a response, and he happened to get a response from this cardinal. And it turned out that this cardinal was one of--this was like a bot that just responded to him.
Tyler: Sure. And even if even if-
Jodie: Even if the cardinal actually responded-
Tyler: Yes, that’s what I wanted-
Jodie: That's not an interview. And so that was the Leader Telegram in 2013, just taking at face value. And he said about that interview with the Cardinal, “As I interviewed him, I thought, Wow, I really have an inside look at history here, Luginbill said. He's a very thoughtful man. I gained a lot of insight from him.”
So this is all problematic. Um, not only his exaggerations, but even more so, is a larger issue. I mean, how many times have we talked about fake news? You know, not having sources, all this kind of stuff. And I think what you said before is really important to reinforce, that idea that every one of these articles gave him legitimacy, and made it so that he no longer had the burden of proof.
All right. So, those are some examples of news stories. What frustrates me most, I'm not sure if my sharing of this article is why there's an editor's note on this particular article or not. But I will tell you that “there's been no clear evidence presented that his assertions were either true or false.” They are--whether or not they are arts and culture, entertainment, whatever, they are journalists. And that is on them to figure that out. It's not hard for me. It's not hard for me to say that the media in Eau Claire Wisconsin must accept some burden of responsibility, because I can't help but wonder what would have happened had somebody simply checked the facts. What would have happened if he would have been called out back in 2012, 2013? Because what happens is that nobody calls him out on it. And he's legitimized through new stories.
Tyler: You think there was an assumption that--maybe not assumption, but, uh, like a feeling among everybody who's interviewing him that that, like, Eau Claire did it again, like we got another Justin Vernon, like, another Eau Claire creative, like, here we go, we are firing them out into the world to be like a--We've already seen it happen before, so why wouldn't this all be true? And then, someone doesn’t do their homework.
Jodie: There are people who have said that Memorial High School has Justin Vernon, but North High School has Joe Luginbill.
So what happens is nobody--community members--Absolutely. Um, some of them were suspicious, and I know because I'm friends with them and they were suspicious since 2012. But it's very hard to not come across as some sort of obsessed nut, when you are on your side saying things, and maybe you've got some screen grabs and some things that don't feel right. And on the other side, you've got TV 13. You've got the Leader Telegram you've got Volume One. He's the most. the 2012 most, you know, entertaining chef.
Tyler: Whatever Joe Luginbill was doing, it feels like what he was testing was, like, everyone around him failed the test, and the test was like, “Can you just say, instead of doing great things, can you just say you've done great things and how long can you do that for?” Because it's just like he's just building up this resume of things that haven't happened yet, but people are like--no one's, everyone’s just assuming these things have happened. So it's like, What's he gonna do next?
So I'm curious then. So this is in 2013, the Leader Telegram article. When does this transition into? Because at some point here, he's going to run for local government.
Tyler: When does this transition into him doing things that can be measured, and filmed? Because-
Jodie: He started the Luginbill Children's Foundation in December of 2016, all right. He served on the Eau Claire school board since 2015. He was the president in 2018. He resigned abruptly on October 28th, 2019. But the Children's, the social worker thing, I just wanted to quickly say he has not graduated from college. I'm not making any commentary on that, other than to say he's not a licensed social worker. I believe he has some sort of certificate.
He resigns abruptly from the Eau Claire school board in October of 2019, the 28th. So right before he resigns, he spearheads the reopening of the State Theater in downtown Eau Claire, which is a historic property. It's a beautiful old building, in some form of disrepair, that went closed when Eau Claire built the Pablo Center, and it was sort of like “What's gonna happen to the State Theater? We need to save the state theater. Is there some way that we can keep this going?” Even though it was in a place where it couldn't serve as an entertainment venue anymore, just the amount of money required to repair it kind of negated, you know, doing it for, the seating number and all that stuff.
So Joe Luginbill spearheads the reopening of the State Theater, which was purchased by Azara Properties, a smoke and Vape shop in the area. And they decide on top of that, that Joe Luginbill is going to be the guy to turn this dilapidated building into something amazing again. All right, so at the end of October, he has a reopening with a ribbon cutting. Um, he's going to make this a multifaceted facility with office space for nonprofit groups, classrooms for workforce development programs, a theater, not to mention soon-to-be-announced plans that will help draw the public in.
So this was a huge event right, and there were people very excited. All sorts of local politicians came and they were like, “This guy is going to really make this building amazing.” Um, the Chippewa Valley LGBTQ+ group had office space in there. But last week on January 16th, like, the lights literally go out on this, right.
I find out that the Chippewa Valley LGBTQ+ group had a lease through the end of December that was abruptly broken by Joe Luginbill. They were paying rent through the end of the year, which, as of yet, they have not gotten back. There is a $20,000 plus Excel bill. None of this unless, it's news to you, is news to you at this point. This is why this series is happening, because of what I'm talking about right now. This is the thing that made people finally, it's almost like there was a wound opened up, and then suddenly, out of all that, came like, years and years of skepticism, that people feel like, I don't know if they finally feel like they could talk about things.
Tyler: I get the sense, in the wake of all this, people were asking, “How could this happen” and then, immediately after that, we're all realizing how this happened.
Jodie: So we can dive more into that in another episode. Quite frankly, um, the local news outlets are all over that part of the story. They've got pictures of the Excel Bill, which I had already seen, but they've got that. They've got, you know, him breaking the lease, which I mentioned, um, with the LGBTQ+ folks. Um, earlier this month, Governor Tony Evers had named Joe Luginbill to the Wisconsin Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board. A representative told WQOW that Luginbill submitted his resignation to Governor Evers on Friday, January 24th.
Tyler: That was four days ago. Do you know, where's Joe Luginbill been since four days ago?
Jodie: Joe Luginbilll is in a bad place, because he did bad things. Instead of being an advocate for children, what we don't even get into in this episode, is the foundation, the lack of 990s, which are something you must file when you are a charitable organization of sorts. Where's the money? What happened to those donations? Why has Joe Luginbill been in Europe most recently? Why? How can all those things happen for a guy who, other than having a job a Chippewa Valley home builders, that he got fired from, because he snuck in after hours and used the computer of one of his bosses to write letters of recommendation about himself, and send them to send them to people from his bosses computer--that's his experience with work. Okay, how somebody like that can afford to go on trips, and not be able to pay the bills for Excel to keep the lights on. As somebody who has identified as being gay, to literally turn the lights off on a local resource center for the very people he should be championing is mind boggling. I don't understand. So I've had links. We've had screen grabs, we've had new stories, posited with what the truth was behind those.
Tyler: And so these things lay the foundation for him to run a political campaign, I assume. When he's 21, whatever, he becomes school board-
Jodie: He's a school board member, then a school board president. He makes a lot of friends. Well, as far as Eau Claire is concerned, are important people, local politicians, business people and such. And at some point-- what I'm going to tell you next is--one of the reasons why I wanted to do this episode. Although everything else has been incredibly important, There's one thing that I know that you can't find, you know, using search engines and, you know, wayback machine and all those things.
Kerry Kinkaid was the president of the City Council. She was a public servant for a long time, and she resigned on June 12 2018, abruptly, and you might be thinking, “What does any of this have to do with Joe Luginbill?”
Because he wasn't on the City Council. She resigns from office. There were people on the City Council who didn't even know she was resigning, when she announced she was resigning. That's how abrupt it was. And I have sources that are ironclad, but I certainly would not tell you what I'm going to tell you allegedly happened, unless I was certain of it, because I don't wanna be sued. Okay?
The story is that Joe Luginbill allegedly encouraged Kerry Kincaid to resign from the Eau Claire city Council because he had information about her, of a sensitive nature, and that if she didn't resign, he would reveal it.
And you might be wondering what Joe Luginbill would have to gain from essentially threatening--I don't know what you call that-
Tyler: Leveraging a city council member...president?
Jodie: Yep, she was the president. What, what could be gained from doing that? We're not going to sit here and spend a great deal of time talking about how he might have gained anything from that, except for the vice president of the City Council, then becomes the president when the president resigns, until reelection.
And the vice president of the Eau Claire City Council was Andrew Werthmannm who then became the Eau Claire City Council president. Andrew Werthmann and Joe Luginbill are very good friends. So who has something to gain from that?
I want to thank everybody for listening. This has been Luginbilled. It's a special production of cool and unusual punishment. We will be following up with other episodes. Um, check our Facebook page to see updates.
Tyler: You can find us that cool and unusual punishment dot com. You can email us at mai@coolandunusualpunishment dot com. You can also get in touch with us on our Facebook page.
Jodie: Yeah, keep asking questions.
Tyler: Thanks for listening.