Advertisement

Who has six legs and won the vice presidential debate? Study declares a Twitter victor

A fly perches on Mike Pence's hair.
The fly that landed on Mike Pence during the vice presidential debate received more mentions on Twitter than either Pence or Kamala Harris, according to a study from New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences.
(Associated Press)

The results are in, and (some) pundits are right: The fly won.

The fly that landed on Mike Pence’s head during the vice presidential debate received more mentions on Twitter than the vice president or his challenger, California Sen. Kamala Harris, according to a study by researchers at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences.

The study analyzed online activity during Wednesday night debate, as well as two hours before and after, and found the fly was mentioned 29% more, on average, than Joe Biden, President Trump, Pence or Harris.

“While the exchange between the vice presidential candidates may have produced some memorable moments, they couldn’t compete with the insect they shared, if only briefly, the debate stage with,” Anasse Bari, a clinical assistant professor in computer science at the Courant Institute and the senior author of the study, said in a statement. “Our results make clear that online activity stemming from live events can be driven by the most inconsequential, and unpredictable, incidents.”

Advertisement

It’s no surprise, really, considering how quickly the fly inspired memes and even merchandise — including a fly swatter — for the Biden campaign.

Vice President Mike Pence struggles to revive the flagging Trump campaign as Sen. Kamala Harris rebukes the administration over its COVID-19 response and more in the pair’s tense but relatively civil debate in Salt Lake City.

It’s not the only time viewers took a moment from a debate and flew away with it.

During a presidential debate in 2012 between Republican Mitt Romney and President Obama, Romney spoke about being given “binders full of women” when answering a question about inequalities for women in the workplace and equal pay, and lit up the internet.

Advertisement

News anchors and social media users immediately began using “fangate” as the nickname for the 2014 debate between Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott and challenger Charlie Crist after Scott nearly refused to debate Crist until he removed a small fan from under his podium.

Crist’s fan soon had its own Twitter account, and the Naples Daily News, Scott’s hometown newspaper, headlined its next-day news story with: “Airing their differences.”


Advertisement
Advertisement