I’m a sucker for a good fly joke. After all, my grandfather, Tyler Kaus, published an entire book of them. But the Left’s desperate fly “jokes” after the vice-presidential debate weren’t funny, and I’m not even sure they were really jokes. The fact that a fly landed on Vice President Mike Pence and spent a good two minutes in his hair was legitimately funny. Pence continued on with the debate, unfazed and perhaps blissfully ignorant of the fly’s presence. In fact, the vice president did so well in that debate that it seems his left-leaning critics read some deep significance into the fly in order to avoid responding to his arguments.
Gayle King, co-host of CBS This Morning and a longtime sidekick of Oprah Winfrey, suggested the fly was proof of Pence’s racism, or something.
“At one point when they were talking about systematic racism, I think this is interesting timing that a fly would land on Mike Pence’s head at that particular time when he said that there really wasn’t systemic racism,” King suggested.
She even put words into the fly’s mouth. “You saw the fly going, ‘Say what?’ I mean, it was very interesting, that was, I don’t want to call that a highlight, but that was certainly a memorable moment,” King added.
“I still keep going back to that fly because you know, number one, I’ve never seen anything like that,” the co-host continued. “It was a fly of color, too, that came at a very opportune time, and that is the ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit — skit waiting to happen on Saturday. Can’t wait to see it.”
This “fly of color” line of reasoning was a rather poor attempt at humor if it was even a “joke” at all. Rather than addressing Pence’s claim that America is not systemically racist, King suggested the “fly of color” was proof of the falsity of his statement—a truly asinine claim.
Yet King’s “fly of color” seems infinitely more hilarious than the Washington Post Style article dissecting the artistic meaning of the fly. “Life imitates art, and so a fly landed on Mike Pence’s head,” Maura Judkis wrote.
“If you were a liberal viewer, or perhaps an art historian, the fly that alighted on Vice President Mike Pence’s hair during Wednesday night’s debate was a bit on the nose. Throughout the history of western painting, imagery of flies can symbolize death, rot, decay, corruption and ‘painting’s power to deceive the eye,’ says Celeste Brusati, professor emerita of art history at the University of Michigan. And there was one, sitting on the vice president’s head, just as he was talking about his and the president’s support for law enforcement,” the Post reporter claimed.
Was the universe trying to tell us something? Lincoln Project co-founder Steve Schmidt interpreted the prophetic sign.
“I don’t think it’s ever a good sign when a fly lands on your head for two minutes,” Schmidt said on MSNBC. “That’s a sign all through history of sin, and historically, biblically, maybe you wouldn’t normally say this—it’s only safe to say this after midnight … but a fly, he who commands the fly is always seen historically as a mark of the devil.”
MSNBC host Ari Melber chuckled, saying, “I have to ask, for the record, are you joking? Because the fly could have landed on anyone.”
“But it didn’t. It landed on Mike Pence. And it says something, I don’t think karmic, about the status of the campaign as it implodes,” Schmidt continued with a straight face, refusing to start laughing with Melber.
Melber kept it light-hearted. “On the fact check, what Steve Schmidt has said about the [polling] numbers is true. What he said about the ultimate moral reckoning of whether the fly connotes evil or devil or Nosferatu is above my pay grade. But I can’t confirm it,” he joked.
The Lincoln Project’s Steve Schmidt says the fly that landed on Mike Pence during the debate last night is a "sign historically of sin" and the "mark of the devil.”
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) October 8, 2020
Steve Schmidt gave the game away. These fly “jokes” weren’t attempts at humor. They were attempts to use the fly to avoid addressing how completely Mike Pence eviscerated the arguments for the Joe Biden campaign on Wednesday.
America did get one good fly joke out of the debate, however. The Biden campaign started selling fly swatters—and the swatters sold out on Thursday morning. The ostensibly pro-Biden fly-swatters read “Truth over Flies” and aim to swat away lies. Perhaps Mike Pence should have used one on Wednesday to swat away Kamala Harris’ lies about Abraham Lincoln and her record.
— Team Joe (Text JOE to 30330) (@TeamJoe) October 8, 2020
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Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.