Tom Sandoval Is Our Fault


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Photography by Getty Images

Can we *please* stop giving this man airtime?

Another day, another #Scandoval. And this time, it’s really bad. On February 2o, The New York Times Magazine released a cover story interview with reality TV actor Tom Sandoval titled “How Tom Sandoval Became the Most Hated Man in America.” The article is an in-depth look at the Vanderpump Rules star’s downfall after the cheating scandal that rocked the entertainment world in March 2023. ICYMI, Sandoval, a long-time cast member of the reality series, was caught in an affair with co-star Raquel Leviss. The catch? Sandoval had a live-in girlfriend of nine years, Ariana Madix, who also happened to be one of Leviss’ best friends. Let’s just say, things blew up pretty spectacularly.

Since then, Sandoval has been on a hardcore redemption tour, culminating in the now-infamous New York Times Magazine article. Sharing his “insight” into why the scandal got so much attention, Sandoval told the mag: “I’m not a pop-culture historian really, but I witnessed the O.J. Simpson thing and George Floyd and all these big things, which is really weird to compare this to that, I think, but do you think in a weird way it’s a little bit the same?” Yes, you’re reading that correctly.

Shortly after the article was released, Sandoval took to his Instagram Stories to apologize for his comment, saying the comparison was “inappropriate and ignorant,” and that he was “incredibly sorry and embarrassed.” The response to his comments were swift, with people shocked the reality star would make such an ill-advised and problematic comparison, but not a day after the NYT cover story was released, Interview Magazine published a photoshoot of Sandoval eating desserts, calling him an “emerging heartthrob” in an Instagram caption. *Shudder*

The question is: Are we really all that surprised about Sandoval’s narcissistic and problematic comments? And more to the point, isn’t this type of off-the-rails quote exactly what we’re looking for from the star? Because the reality is, this is kind of all our fault. As a society, we’re fuelling Sandoval’s redemption arc — and it says a lot about us.

To be clear, this was far from the first time the TV star has made controversial comments or exhibited straight-up ridiculous behaviour since his scandal almost a year ago. After a very brief hiatus, the cover band performer has been popping up on our TVs, social media feeds, and podcast streams, all with the goal of appearing like someone we should root for rather than loathe.

In November of last year, Sandoval competed on the second season of Fox’s Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test, a competition series that found the disgraced celeb, alongside other C-list stars like The Bachelorette’s Tyler Cameron and Nick Viall, and social media star Jojo Siwa, competing against each other in feats of strength. Sandoval was probably best known for being fireman-carried by Siwa in a now-iconic moment.

More recently, Sandoval appeared on the January 30 episode of Nick Viall’s The Viall Files podcast, where the behaviour continued. After showing up to the recording late, Sandoval made it clear that despite the work he’s alleged to have done on himself, he really hasn’t learned a thing. When asked to clarify what he’d learned from the scandal, the 41-year-old told host Viall,  “I don’t know what to say. What have I learned? What have I learned? To not ever do that again? To not ever be in a nine-year f**king relationship and end it that way. To not ever, like, cheat that way. Dude, I’m never going to do that.” Sandoval then went on to call ex Ariana Madix “petty” and implied he cheated on her because she belittled him. Essentially, the guy has learned literally nothing.

But he probably never will, considering the opportunities for Sandoval to profit off his bad behaviour just keep on coming, as he continues to tour with his band, pop up on talk shows and stay employed by Bravo and Vanderpump Rules (this, despite Leviss, the women he was unfaithful with, having to leave social media due to online vitriol and essentially being exiled from the industry fait accompli).

The idea of backing a morally questionable celebrity isn’t anything new. Since pretty much the dawn of the celebrity era we’ve been rooting for celebs who are dubious to say the least. The internet has a complicated and often forgiving relationships with celebs, not to mention a short memory. Just look to Johnny Depp for proof. And more recently, these characters have taken on an entirely new life — and level of infamy — than ever before. Case in point: “real people” turned celebrities Anna Delvey and Gypsy Rose Blanchard.

ICYMI, both Delvey and Blanchard rose to fame after committing crimes — fraud and second-degree murder, respectively. But instead of going quiet while serving their time, both women’s star power took off while they were incarcerated, thanks in large part to the TV shows based on their lives, Netflix’s Inventing Anna and Hulu’s The Act, which glorified their actions, or at least framed them as understandable.

Despite defrauding people out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, Delvey — who was released from jail in February 2021 — now hosts New York Fashion Week shows at her house, and Blanchard — who was released in December 2023— amassed millions of social media followers within hours of her release, appearing on The Today Show and Good Morning America and attempting to attend a Kansas City Chief’s game in the hopes of meeting Taylor Swift (she was, instead, kicked out of the state). Both of these women have, while incarcerated, developed almost cult followings and became something akin to folk heroes, with people rooting for them to succeed, almost as if they forgot who exactly they were rooting for.

While no one would classify Sandoval as a folk hero except for maybe Sandoval himself, there’s no denying that we — as viewers — do get something from watching him succeed: Namely, more off-the-wall drama. But while Sandoval’s downfall, and our joy at watching it, may make for good TV, IRL it’s just contributing to the proliferation and endorsement of his behaviour (not to mention majorly inflating his ego). And considering Leviss hasn’t been given the same grace, it’s simply unfair.

Which means, it’s kind of up to us. If we really want Sandoval to atone for and learn from his actions, then we have to let him be able to. And that means turning off our TVs and letting him sit in the silence.

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