The results are in and (some) experts are right: the fly has won.
The fly that landed on Mike Pence’s head during the vice presidential debate received more mentions on Twitter than either the vice president or his challenger, California senator Kamala Harris, according to a study by researchers at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences from New York University.
The study analyzed online activity during Wednesday night’s debate, as well as two hours before and after, and found that the fly was mentioned 29% more, on average, than Joe Biden, President Trump, Pence or Harris.
“If the exchange between the candidates for the vice-presidency produced some memorable moments, they could not compete with the insect with whom they shared, if only briefly, the scene of the debate”, Anasse Bari, clinical assistant professor of computer science at the Courant Institute and the study’s lead author, said in a statement. “Our results clearly show that online activity resulting from live events can be driven by the smallest and most unpredictable incidents.”
That’s hardly surprising, considering how quickly the fly has inspired memes and even merchandise – including a fly swatter – for the Biden campaign.
This isn’t the only time viewers took a moment for a debate and flew away with it.
During a 2012 presidential debate between Republican Mitt Romney and President Obama, Romney spoke of receiving “briefcases full of women” when answering a question about inequalities for women in the workplace and the ” equal pay, and illuminated the Internet.
News presenters and social media users immediately began using ‘fangate’ as a nickname for the 2014 debate between Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott and challenger Charlie Crist after Scott almost refused to debate Crist until that he removed a small fan from under his podium.
The Crist fan quickly got his own Twitter account, and the Naples Daily News, Scott’s hometown newspaper, headlined their article the next day with: “Spreading Their Differences.”
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