clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

About that fly in the vice presidential debate

The one real winner of the vice presidential debate.

A fly rests on the head of Vice President Mike Pence as he takes notes during the vice presidential debate.
Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images
Jen Kirby is a senior foreign and national security reporter at Vox, where she covers global instability.

There was only one real winner of Wednesday night’s vice presidential debate: the fly.

Pundits will talk about the merits of the debate, who had the most speaking time, who helped their presidential candidate the most. All of it will be eclipsed by a black housefly that temporarily got stuck on Vice President Mike Pence’s head.

Pence was in the middle of giving an answer to a question that was probably not the actual question moderator Susan Page asked him, when the fly landed on Pence’s closely cropped white hair, just as he uttered the word “insult.”

And it just stayed there. Really, really stayed there.

Like, this thing hung on and would not let go. Pence shook his head to show he was deeply concerned and turned to his opponent, Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris, and then, still showing deep concern, squared himself back to the camera, and still the fly would not budge.

Indeed, every time Pence looked toward the plexiglass Harris was behind because the president and other staff members in the White House have the coronavirus, the viewing audience collectively wondered: Would this turn of Pence’s head be the thing that finally knocked the fly off? Would Pence finally break character to swat at his hair? Or would Harris put politics aside for a second to give him a little head shake to be like, Hey, Mike, there’s a bug on your head.

But Pence did not seem to notice, and Harris didn’t warn him if she did see the fly. And it took a while — approximately two minutes — for the fly to finally depart. It seems not that long, but this is show business, people, and all you need is one golden cameo.

The fly probably made Pence as relatable as he’s ever been (I mean, who hasn’t had a weird thing on their face during a Zoom meeting this year?), but right now it’s the Biden campaign that’s trying to fundraise off of the fly.

Because this is a joke post, we won’t comment on whether this is an attempt to distract from a solid Pence performance that might, as Vox’s Emily Stewart wrote, “have put some undecided moderates at ease.” Plus, we expect Trump will tweet about the fly eventually, anyway.

In the end, maybe it’s a sad day for our country that the fly won a debate between two people who could both be a heartbeat away from the presidency that would belong to a septuagenarian. But this is 2020, and honestly, everyone on Twitter needed a break from all that doomscrolling.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.