Joe 'the Plumber' Wurzelbacher, who famously confronted Obama over tax policy in 2008, diagnosed with cancer

March 23, 2023
Ben Marquis

Joe Wurzelbacher, perhaps better known as "Joe the Plumber," gained a measure of political fame in 2008 when video cameras caught him confronting then-candidate Barack Obama about his proposed tax hikes on small businesses.

Now 15 years later, Wurzelbacher is engaged in a battle with cancer, and his family is asking for financial support as he undergoes treatment, the Daily Caller reported.

The famous plumber from Ohio was diagnosed recently with Stage 3 pancreatic cancer and is receiving treatment at both the Ann Arbor VA Hospital and the University of Michigan Hospital.

Support needed for cancer treatment

A GiveSendGo fundraising account has been established on his behalf with a set goal of $50,000, of which more than $11,500 had already been raised as of Thursday evening.

According to Wurzelbacher's wife, Katie, "Joe had been having stomach issues for about 3 months, which eventually became painful. On December 26th, he'd had enough of the pain and we went to the VA emergency room in Ann Arbor."

"They ran tests and performed scans which showed a mass in the head of his pancreas. The mass was restricting one of his biliary ducts, so they classified it as Stage 3 cancer," she continued.

"They also found that his SMV had a large blood clot," Wurzelbacher noted. "His current treatment plan is 6 months of Folfirinox chemotherapy and surgery to remove half of his pancreas and reconstruct the vein with the clot."

"The treatment has been a little tough so far. He deals with fatigue and weakness daily, which makes it hard for him to go to work," the wife added of her husband. "The oncologist has made adjustments to his chemo which has provided a little relief of the constant nausea he had after his first two treatments. Since all his issues and treatment began, he's lost 70 pounds."

The instant stardom of "Joe the Plumber"

The Washington Examiner reported in 2019 that "Joe the Plumber" had become famous on the right and notorious on the left following his "impromptu encounter" in 2008 with then-Sen. Obama (D-IL) when the candidate made a campaign stop in Toledo, Ohio to try and win voter support.

Wurzelbacher told Obama that he had just purchased a new company that earned roughly $250,000-280,000 annually, and asked, "Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn't it?"

Obama attempted to explain how his tax plan for small businesses would work and seemed to acknowledge that, yes, Wurzelbacher probably would end up paying a little bit more in taxes if his annual revenue exceeded $250,000. "It's not that I want to punish your success," Obama said at one point in the conversation that was caught on video. "I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they've got a chance at success too."

Wurzelbacher became an instant star overnight and was heralded particularly by the campaign of GOP nominees John McCain and Sarah Palin. He dabbled in political activism for a few years, including a failed run for Congress in 2012, before returning to his normal life as a business owner and plumber in Ohio.

"Pleasantly surprised" and "very humbled" by support received

In a statement to the Daily Caller about the fundraiser effort on his behalf, Wurzelbacher said, "I’m just pleasantly surprised so many people have reached out and very humbled, to be honest with you. I didn’t realize I touched so many people."

"The prayers are incredible, that’s what’s going to get me through this," he added. "It just shows how many good people are out there that are willing to help other people. That in itself is pretty awesome."

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