VP Debate: The Night A Housefly Stole the Buzz from the Vice President of the United States

VP Debate: The Night A Housefly Stole the Buzz from the Vice President of the United States


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Janet Ybarra
Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press

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It must have come in for quite a soft landing. Because in the midst of the rhetorical push-and-pull of the vice presidential debate Wednesday night, a tiny common housefly sat undisturbed for what seemed an eternity perched–under klieg lights and very much on-camera–atop Vice President Mike Pence’s snowy coif.

The encounter’s miniature interloper seems to have stolen the show.

Actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who starred as Vice President Selina Meyer on the hit HBO comedy Veep seemed envious that the fly hadn’t guest-starred on her series first.

“Well, I really wish we had thought of this on @veephbo,” she wrote on social media. Louis-Dreyfus followed it up by asking, “who is controlling that fly?” 

The fly sparked conversations on Twitter, where it became a trending topic and inspired fan accounts.

Emmy winner Dan Levy demanded the fly receive accolades for its acting skills. “Give that fly a SAG Award,” the Schitt’s Creek creator wrote. 

And, of course, the late-night comics had to get in on the act.

“Oh, my God! Look at his hair! He’s so full of crap, he’s attracting flies!” exclaimed CBS funny man Stephen Colbert. “God bless you, fly. I guess the plexiglass wasn’t high enough. But, listen, listen, all jokes aside, thoughts and prayers to that fly’s family. It’s got to quarantine for two weeks now. We’ve got to get that fly to Walter Reed. Then minutes later they were talking about a very important issue but I missed the whole thing because the fly was still on Mike Pence’s head. And it stayed there for over two minutes!”

But Pence’s fly-friend wasn’t only comic fodder.

Even the serious news anchors and analysts couldn’t stop talking about the fly.

“And not for nothing, I don’t think it’s ever a good sign when a fly lands on your head for two minutes,” former Republican strategist Steve Schmidt told MSNBC’s Ari Melber. “You know, that’s a sign all through history of sin, and historically, Biblically — it’s only safe to say this, Ari after midnight, but a fly, he who commands the fly has always been seen historically as the mark of the devil.”

Here’s the thing, however: If everyone’s talking about the fly from last night this is all the evidence that you need that the American people have already made up their minds, and the election is lost to Donald Trump and Mike Pence if what folks took away was the funny fly in Pence’s hair, rather than any of what he actually said.

Clearly nothing that Pence actually said made much of an impression on the American people.

That can mean only one thing: This particular debate will have about the same life expectancy in the news cycle as its unexpected, breakout star: about a single day.

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