The 9 most cringeworthy social-media fails of the 2020 presidential campaign

NBCFormer Vice President Joe Biden.

The 2020 election season is officially underway, and with it comes an avalanche of social-media failures.

Twenty-four Democrats and two Republicans, including President Donald Trump, have so far announced their candidacies.

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.


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.

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.


Swalwell drew wide condemnation for posting another tweet that many viewed as pandering to the African-American community.

Alex Edelman/Getty Images

“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.”

The tweet was accompanied by a photo of Swalwell seated among a group of African-Americans. And people were not buying it.


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.”

The internet, predictably, had a field day.


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.

Joe Biden/Instagram

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.

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s announcement drew mixed reviews.

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.

As did many others in the right-wing sphere.


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.

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 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?”

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.

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