- The 2020 election season is well underway, and with it comes a slew of social-media failures.
- The field is crowded, with 23 Democrats and two Republicans, including President Donald Trump, vying for the presidency.
- Former Vice President Joe Biden leads the Democratic field, but he’s no stranger to controversy, much of it caused by his team’s social-media screwups.
- Meanwhile, other candidates like former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Rep. Eric Swalwell, and Sens.Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren could all use lessons on how not to own themselves on social media.
- Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.
The 2020 election season is officially underway, and with it comes an avalanche of social-media failures.
And even though there’s still over a year until the Election Day 2020, there’s no dearth of social-media blunders from this group of contenders.
Former Vice President Joe Biden is leading the Democratic field by a significant margin, but he’s no stranger to controversy, and he’s had his fair share of social-media screwups so far.
Meanwhile, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, California Rep.Eric Swalwell, New York Sen.Kirsten Gillibrand, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren could all use lessons on how not to own themselves online.
Scroll down for some of the most cringeworthy social media flops of the 2020 campaign (so far).
Beto O’Rourke has livestreamed mundane moments of his life before, but when he livestreamed his visit to the dentist, everyone agreed that he’d taken it too far.
Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke posted a video of his visit to the dentist on Instagram.
The clip began with O’Rourke saying, “So, I’m here at the dentist,” while he had a suction tool in his mouth.
As the dental hygienist, Diana, continued working, O’Rourke asked her about her background and her thoughts on living in El Paso, Texas.
O’Rourke has livestreamed other mundane episodes, like when he was cutting steak, eating guacamole while driving, and, of course, roadtripping to Washington, DC, with fellow Texas Rep. Will Hurd.
But this time, people thought he took it too far.
can u not https://t.co/X3UrbNShh1
— Tyler Coates (@tylercoates) January 10, 2019
Love me some Beto but this is self-parody territory. https://t.co/xrDuH9ZNny
— take care of yourself (@anamariecox) January 10, 2019
Eric Swalwell tweeted photos of the American flag and the LGBT pride flag hanging over his office door and said, “I fly these flags 365 days a year” — but the LGBT flag still had folding creases in it.
California Rep. Eric Swalwell immediately got called out for claiming he flies the LGBT pride flag “365 days a year,” because the creases in the flag told another story.
I fly these flags 365 days a year. pic.twitter.com/MsI1uQzDZ0
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) May 24, 2019
People wasted no time in criticising Swalwell for the move, and the California congressman’s was soon “ratioed,” a term that refers to when a tweet has more replies than retweets or likes.
Lmao, but those creases tho…
— MileHighJustice (@notstevevai) May 25, 2019
My dude, that rainbow flag was CLEARLY opened and hung five minutes before this picture was taken
— David Eric Kelly (@Lt_Buckets) May 25, 2019
The gay pride flag literally just came out of the box… look at all those wrinkles.
— Brenna Spencer (@BrennaSpencer) May 25, 2019
— Mike (@mopohwer) May 25, 2019
Swalwell drew wide condemnation for posting another tweet that many viewed as pandering to the African-American community.
“Being a good president doesn’t mean you speak the loudest or tweet the most,” Swalwell tweeted. “Being a good president means knowing when to listen.”
Being a good president doesn't mean you speak the loudest or tweet the most. Being a good president means knowing when to listen. pic.twitter.com/PDEdCgf7mH
— Eric Swalwell (@ericswalwell) May 26, 2019
The tweet was accompanied by a photo of Swalwell seated among a group of African-Americans. And people were not buying it.
— Beastly Graham (@open_up_mn) May 27, 2019
You talk too much to be a good listener.
— Kevin in Texas (@TX_Kevin) May 28, 2019
— Berzerker Dave (@GreenPayBacker) May 27, 2019
— JGH (@Hubb57) May 28, 2019
Swalwell tweeted a selfie walking past Trump Tower and wondering where else he could get coffee … in Manhattan.
Swalwell posted a Twitter selfie during a snowy day in New York City, with the text, “It’s snowing in #NewYork. I need coffee. The closest cafe is inside Trump Tower. This is me walking to an alternative.”
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) February 20, 2019
The internet, predictably, had a field day.
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) February 20, 2019
Where will you possibly find coffee in New York City? pic.twitter.com/kcecq5dcSx
— Vince Coglianese (@VinceCoglianese) February 20, 2019
Live feed of Swalwell crossing the street for anti-Trump coffee pic.twitter.com/k7YaC8WagN
— Eddie Zipperer (@EddieZipperer) February 20, 2019
Joe Biden’s social-media team announced his candidacy on Instagram — and immediately got skewered for the uncomfortable positioning of one of the letters in Biden’s name.
Biden’s social-media team rolled out his official announcement on Instagram in a series of photos that, when viewed together, showed the campaign logo.
But the placement of the letter “N” over former President Barack Obama drew immediate backlash.
“Why’d you choose the ‘N’ for the picture with Obama?” one user commented.
“Good one joe,” said another.
“N on Obama y’all ain’t slick LMAO,” a third person added.
Several users pointed out that Instagram displays individual posts on people’s feeds, not all six at once, and that the latest algorithm doesn’t show posts in chronological order.
“This is the only post that showed up in my feed, it looks racist af,” another person wrote.
When Biden finally addressed accusations from multiple women that he touched them inappropriately and invaded their personal space, the former VP sparked backlash for giving a non-apology apology.
Shortly after he was accused by four women of touching them inappropriately and violating their personal space, Biden posted a video to his Twitter in which he ruminated about how “the boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset.” He added that he would try harder to respect the personal space of those around him.
But critics pointed out the video lacked one critical component: an actual apology.
“I’m sorry” was the “only phrase” the video needed, Amanda Arnold wrote in The Cut.
What Biden’s accusers are “saying is clear: that Biden violated their boundaries and made them uncomfortable,” Arnold continued. “But to truly understand this, as he has promised to do, would require him to admit he was at fault.”
Megan Garber, writing in The Atlantic, struck a similar chord.
“For more than two minutes, Biden explains and insists and reminds and acknowledges and anthropologizes and promises to evolve with the times,” she wrote. “He does not, however, apologise.”
“Instead, Biden defends himself,” she continued. His non-apology suggests “the letter of the law without the spirit, apologia without a true apology.”
Elizabeth Warren drank a beer on Instagram Live while kicking off her campaign and awkwardly thanked her husband for being there … in their own home.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s announcement drew mixed reviews.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 2, 2019
At one point in the video, Warren’s husband, Jim, entered the frame and after introducing him, Warren added, “Thank you for being here.”
“This video of @SenWarren drinking a beer is great material for an SNL skit,” wrote one Twitter user. “And her husband ‘showing up’ at their house followed by her thanking him for being there is priceless. Where else should he have been?”
Apparently, the president agreed.
Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” weighed in, too.
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) January 15, 2019
As did many others in the right-wing sphere.
“There’s no way there could be a less authentic Democratic candidate than Hillary Clinton.”
Elizabeth Warren: “Hold my beer.” https://t.co/79gvWZxTQ2
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) January 2, 2019
Elizabeth Warren: “Hello youths. How do you do? Do you like beer?” pic.twitter.com/uK6mGFmbYs
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) January 2, 2019
My friend's incredibly woke infant just asked me,
"Who advised Elizabeth Warren to produce that disingenous and embarrassing beer video? It's clear to everyone that she's a frugal elitist who prefers a mid-tier Pinot Grigio."
How do I even begin to answer?
— John Cardillo (@johncardillo) January 2, 2019
Elizabeth Warren is on Instagram live cooking dinner and drinking a beer. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is picking our next president. We just don’t know it yet. pic.twitter.com/Yuv6rzBGx5
— Dave Catanese (@davecatanese) December 31, 2018
Kirsten Gillibrand tried to fundraise by playing beer pong (with water).
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand tried to boost her viability as a 2020 contender when she released an ad in April in which she played beer pong using water.
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) April 30, 2019
The video was shot at a bar in Nashua, New Hampshire. It began with Gillibrand standing at a beer-pong table that had cups filled with water. She started taking the shot, and as the ball was in midair the video froze.
Then, text appeared, which read, “If Kirsten makes this shot … will you donate $US1 to guarantee her spot on the Democratic debate stage?”
The text disappeared and Gillibrand made the shot while everyone cheered and she threw her arms up to celebrate.
“Donate $US1 today!” the ad said.
Gillibrand’s ad prompted many to say that the New York senator is trying to revamp her bid and run a “cool campaign” to gain more support in the crowded Democratic field.
Gillibrand turned a game of beer pong into an ad. Inslee is hawking bumper stickers for $1 donations. Delaney promised to give to charity if people donate.
— Emily Stephenson (@ewstephe) May 6, 2019
— Jazz Shaw (@JazzShaw) May 4, 2019
“Gillibrand has tried to put on a happy face. She has played beer pong in NH. She swapped dresses w a drag queen in Des Moines. She arm-wrestled w a college student in Ames, IA.”
Running for President or prepping for Spring Break? TBD. https://t.co/DsxBNtizkH
— Kristin Davison (@KristinDavison) May 18, 2019
Kirsten Gillibrand has an ad in which she is playing beer pong. With water.
And I'm trying to figure out who that's supposed to appeal to.https://t.co/jdi5vyPCNy
— Christina Kristofic (@CKristofic) May 14, 2019
Kirsten Gillibrand is so cool! She plays beer pong so she obviously is very cool and someone millennials can relate to and should vote for! https://t.co/IBsz0e0RW8
— Chris Winkler (@chris_winkler42) May 10, 2019
Gillibrand tried to make light of an awkward and viral moment by posting a video of her working out, and it didn’t go well.
In March, Gillibrand faced some blowback on social media after she posted a video to her official Twitter account of herself working out.
As she lifted weights at a gym in Iowa during a campaign visit, Gillibrand wore a shirt that said, “Just trying to get some ranch.”
“Good to be back in Iowa,” the tweet said. “Do you like my new workout shirt?”
Good to be back in Iowa. Do you like my new workout shirt? pic.twitter.com/0YVX0zZCvj
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) March 20, 2019
The T-shirt’s message referred to a moment on the campaign trail that went viral in February, during Gillibrand’s visit to Iowa City.
As Gillibrand was addressing a crowd of supporters at a restaurant, a woman seemed to approach her. As Gillibrand turned toward her, the woman replied, “Sorry, I’m just trying to get some ranch dressing.”
The New York senator’s workout video and her T-shirt immediately sparked ridicule, with many accusing her of trying too hard to relate to average Americans. The tweet also prompted some comparisons to O’Rourke’s livestream of his dentist visit.
Beto filming himself at the dentist doomed us to more of this nonsense. Brace yourself for Bernie's colonoscopy. https://t.co/BYc4l4SBpj
— Allison Burnett (@Allison_Burnett) March 20, 2019
Imagine how embarrassing this must be for her kids: https://t.co/3g1ZGUx5qY
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) March 20, 2019
We truly do not need to see this https://t.co/YBDYoNbpYj
— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) March 20, 2019
When I run for AG of Maryland you will all be forced to watch videos of me flossing my teeth EVERY DAY https://t.co/naOv0S7d5s
— rabia O'chaudry (@rabiasquared) March 20, 2019
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