The Fly on Pence's Head, Memes and Tweets from the Vice Presidential Debate

October 8, 2020 

There were frustrating interruptions, though not as many as in the first debate. There were dodged questions, animated facial expressions and one candidate running particularly roughshod over the moderator.

And yes, there was a fly on top of Vice President Mike Pence's head.

That was what excited social media during the sole vice-presidential debate, one in which the tone was markedly more subdued compared with last week's presidential debate but in which the dynamics remained largely the same: The Republican incumbent showed little regard for the agreed-upon rules, and the Democratic challenger mostly complied.

And, again, a fly landed on Mr. Pence's head.

So, for posterity, here is how the internet -- or how we casually refer to that insular, blue-check-verified version of the proverbial diner in a steel town -- reacted to the debate.

About an hour into the debate, a fly suddenly appeared on Mr. Pence's head, resting motionless yet extremely visible set against his silver hair. It sat there for two minutes and three seconds, enough time to spawn thousands of memes and somehow crash Twitter's trending topics.

Even a comedian who spent nearly a decade finding humor in the travails of the vice presidency was impressed by the fly's appearance.

The Biden campaign even turned the fly into its latest get-out-the-vote canvasser and fund-raiser.

The Trump campaign had put out no fly content as of late Wednesday.

The questions prepared by Susan Page, the Washington bureau chief for USA Today, were topical, sharp and specific. They were just rarely answered.

Rather, both candidates (though Mr. Pence more frequently than Ms. Harris) simply used their time to make prepared remarks or attacks, occasionally bantering with each other, but rarely answering the questions.

With the two candidates seated 12 feet apart and separated by two relatively useless plates of plexiglass, the debate broadcast relied heavily on a split screen, with one candidate talking and the other left to react.

Ms. Harris proved adept at using the split screen with her facial reactions, able to inject a bit of her take without uttering a word while Mr. Pence was speaking. And the expressions quickly gained a following online.

And while it wasn't the brazen, rapid-fire interruptions that Mr. Trump berated former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. with during their first debate, Mr. Pence made repeated interruptions of Ms. Harris, prompting the California senator to retort, "I'm speaking."

It was an expression many were familiar with.

Matt Stevens contributed reporting.

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