When Rachel Campos met Sean Duffy, it was love at first sight–but with a twist: their initial encounter was immortalized for MTV.
The two reality TV stars–Rachel of Real World: San Francisco, Sean of Real World: Boston–had been selected for a spin off, Real World and Road Rules, which, as the title indicates, involved travel.
“We met on a train,” Rachel recalls,” and the first moment we saw each other was on television. We’ve been together ever since. It’s kind of cool.”
That was in 1997,and the couple wed the next year. Rachel Campos-Duffy is a writer and media personality who often appears on Fox as a commentator, political analyst and guest host of Fox and Friends on the weekend, while Sean is now the congressman from Wisconsin’s 7th District. Campos-Duffy is a former spokesman who remains active with the LIBRE Initiative, a nonprofit that “advances the principles and values of economic freedom to empower the U.S. Hispanic community so it can thrive and contribute to a more prosperous America.” Oh, and the photogenic couple has eight children, ranging in age from eighteen to one and a half.
The birth of the youngest, Patrick Miguel Duffy, on May 29, 2016, was noted by none other than US Weekly: “As real as it gets! Real World alums Sean Duffy and Rachel Campos-Duffy welcomed their eighth child together on Sunday,” the magazine gushed, adding that the proud father had shared “several adorable photos of the family’s latest addition” on line.
Not only did Campos-Duffy meet her husband on reality TV, but she regards her experience on Real World: San Francisco as formative. Right out of college, Rachel was the lone conservative in an eclectic household of strangers that included a man who had AIDS, a bicycle messenger, a medical student and a Muslim who was lead singer in a hip hop group. Rachel had to fight constantly for her beliefs, though she became good friends with several of her roommates.
“Reality taught me, or allowed me, at a very young age, to be myself and to be comfortable in front of the camera,” Campos-Duffy says. “Both Sean and I feel we learned to work with people and live with people through reality TV. I learned many lessons about myself. You may not know what you really believe about something until you have to defend your position. In some instances I changed my mind because I was open-minded.” She notes that her husband is the first reality TV alum to be elected to national office–President Trump is the second.
As a member of the Real World household, Rachel happily went to hip hop performances and attended a gay pride parade. But she later learned that her roommates had not been so enthralled when she took them to hear her hero, Jack Kemp, speak at a conference. “I learned through later interviews that they were all complaining about it and couldn’t understand why somebody who was Hispanic wanted to be with ‘all these white people’,” she says. “I was surprised at how much more open minded I was than my roommates.”
Campos-Duffy is a third generation American and military brat whose family history informs her views on the touchy issue of immigration. She is fond of quoting her father, who has said, “America doesn’t just have an immigration problem–it has an assimilation problem.” Rachel’s father, Miguel Campos was one of the fifteen children of Rafael and Beatrix Campos. Rafael came to the U.S. from Mexico to work in the mines of the southwest, settling in Arizona. “What he couldn’t do in Mexico—transcend his poverty and lack of education—he did do in America through hard work and ingenuity,” Rachel wrote in the American Spectator. Starting at the age of six, Miguel picked up money shining shoes and also sold “nopales,” or cactus leaves that had been collected in the mountains by Miguel and his brothers and then cleaned, door to door.
“Out of poverty came resourcefulness and a work ethic forged at an age today’s culture would deem unjust,” Rachel wrote of her father’s experience. Upon graduating from high school, Miguel joined the Air Force, though he didn’t shun taking second jobs such as being a janitor in a high school to supplement the family’s income. He earned a bachelor’s degree in night school. Stationed in Spain, Miguel fell in love with a Spanish woman named Pilar. They married and returned to the U.S., where Pilar Campos taught herself English and earned a GED. Pilar and Rachel Campos graduated from Arizona State University at the same time.
While the Hispanic community largely votes Democratic, Rachel is one of those who sees Hispanics as having views more in harmony with the philosophy of the GOP, if only the Republicans knew how to reach out to them. “Hispanics start business at three times the rate of average Americans, so they like low taxes,” Campos-Duffy says. “They like regulations being lowered so they can start businesses, and they also like a lot of the family issues Republicans stand for such as religious liberty and pro-life issues. Hispanics are culturally conservative.
“In Wisconsin,” she continues, “the liberal and progressive groups that reach out to Latinos saying ‘We care about you’ don’t talk about school choice. Why? Because they know that school choice is something Hispanics like. These same politicians who are reaching out to Hispanics know that if they expose themselves as having voted against school choice they’ll lose their election because Hispanics love school choice. ”
Nevertheless Republicans aren’t making their case to Hispanics. “Here’s the problem,” Campos-Duffy says, “there aren’t enough Republicans in these communities, reaching out and exposing who these politicians really are and what they really stand for. Conservatives have not consistently reached out to these communities” but rather show up before an election and leave afterwards.
When it is suggested that the idea of Hispanics as natural conservatives is wrong–that Hispanics like other segments of the population are increasingly looking to government to support them–Campos-Duffy admits, “There have been progressive groups in the Hispanic community for ten, fifteen or sometimes even fifty years that never leave these communities. And, when recent immigrants come in, these groups offer access to government programs. They begin to get them hooked on government programs. If you can get people hooked on government programs, that is the easiest way to win their votes, have them dependent on you.”
By contrast, the LIBRE Initiative, which is headquartered in Texas and which Campos-Duffy supports, promotes free-market values and school choice, praised the recent tax reform, and offers English language and other courses aimed at productive citizenship. “We get enormous response,” says Campos-Duffy. “We talk about the American Dream and people who have made it through hard work and personal responsibility. The problem is that the other side is 150 times bigger and better financed than we are.” LIBRE is the only Hispanic organization that has gone on record condemning the socialist government in Venezuela that has suppressed liberties, held on to power through violence, and starved its people.
Campos-Duffy is sympathetic to young people who were brought here by illegal immigrant parents and believes that President Trump’s proposals, a combination of a path to citizenship for1.8 million brought here as children and beefing up border control, including building a wall, were the best solution. “The President’s plan reflected where the American people are,” Campos-Duffy says, “because it solves the problem for the Dreamers so they can stay. It was a smart offer and also three times as generous as President Obama’s. President Trump was taking this on in his first year and he was keeping his promises on border security. We have to solve this problem once and for all so other kids aren’t caught in this terrible limbo.”
While some Dreamers have demanded citizenship, even appearing entitled when they protested, including blocking entrance to a Disneyland, Rachel points to Hilario Yanez, interviewed on Fox, a Dreamer, who supports border security and praised President Trump for his “leadership, compassion, and courage.” Grateful for having been brought to the U.S., Yanez wants citizenship coupled with policies and enforcement that ensure an end to illegal immigration. Trump’s plan, of course, at least for now, didn’t make it out of Congress. Campos-Duffy, who, poised and polished though she is, can be a bit of a firebrand, charges that Democrats don’t want to solve the problem but instead prefer to keep it as a political wedge issue.
Campos-Duffy is a popular Fox contributor and frequent Fox and Friends host, but most viewers probably don’t realize that she actually lives in Wausau, Rep. Duffy, the tenth of eleven children, was born in Hayward, WI., where the family still spends summers. Rachel flies to New York when she hosts Fox and Friends. When the couple was on the verge of getting married, Rachel was trying out to be on The View. If she got the job, they would have moved to New York, and if she didn’t, Sean, a two time World Champion speed climber in the Lumberjack World Championships, wanted to live in his native Wisconsin.
Campos-Duffy had a second shot at being the conservative on The View and again made it to become a finalist for the spot. Elizabeth Hasselbeck won the slot. Campos-Duffy embraced being a mother and getting the news from The View provided the opening scene for Campos-Duffy’s book Stay Home, Stay Happy: 10 Secrets to Loving At-Home Motherhood. Campos-Duffy was a full-time stay at home mother for several years, until she wrote a National Review article about how Republicans could win back the Hispanic vote after losing so many Latino voters in 2012 The article garnered national attention and led to her becoming spokesman for LIBRE.
She says that young women are intensely eager to manage career, marriage, and family. “I get asked about these issues all the time,” she says, “and am blown away at how interested young women are in how work- life balance works in my own life. They are hungry for a different approach from what they are hearing from the culture, universities and women’s studies departments, and the left about motherhood and professional life and how to sequence these things.”
For the most part, however, she believes conservatives are more open to different choices. “What’s great about conservatism,” she says, “is that there is no script. There is a liberal feminist script for women that says you should go to law school, make partner at your law firm and delay childbirth, and you should only have a certain number of children. What’s great about being a conservative woman is that there is no script. Sarah Palin is an example of a conservative woman who doesn’t follow any script and she seems very happy.”
But it must have been hard when Sean didn’t want to live in a media center such as New York?
She replies, “I was in love with him, and I believed that, if I had a good man, the right husband, everything else would resolve itself. I have the right partner in my life, and it has worked out well for me. I have my dream job at Fox in my forties. I would never have guessed that my life would be as interesting and exciting as it is in my forties.
“What’s interesting is that in the world we live in now, you can jump off the train and jump back on the train of your professional life. You aren’t in a cocoon in your home. You are connected to the world through the internet. You should follow your heart. But the things that last are a good marriage and happy kids and everything else will work itself out.”
Such is the Real World with Rachel Campos-Duffy.