The Best Memes From the First Presidential Debate
At 9:05pm Eastern Time, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton shook hands on the debate stage at Hofstra University for the first presidential debate. At 9:17pm—12 minutes later—a parody account poking fun at Donald Trump’s distracting sniffles tweeted its first tweet.
— Trump Sniff 👃 (@TrumpSniff) September 27, 2016
And thus a meme was born.
For those who didn’t watch the debate (it’s not too late), the meme is in reference to the incessant and highly audible sound Donald Trump made trying to clear his sinuses as he spoke. In total, there were upwards of 50 times over the two-hour debate that Trump sniffled—and trust me I hate myself more than you hate me for actually counting. But I couldn’t help myself. Sure, in any other election, this sort of thing might have (and likely should have) been overlooked, but thanks to a gaffe-hungry public and the fuss made over Hillary Clinton’s health these last few weeks, tweeters seized the opportunity at karmic retribution for the Republican nominee.
Does Trump have the sniffles? A cold? Pneumonia? Where are his health records?
— Andrea Stone (@andreastonez) September 27, 2016
Trump sniffles and interruptions: The Supercut. https://t.co/j3FwOVBM0A
— Gillian Brockell (@gbrockell) September 27, 2016
Trump has the sniffles!! I want to see his medical records. #debatenight
— Rory Albanese (@RoryAlbanese) September 27, 2016
Or, if you’re former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, to suggest Trump might be on cocaine.
Notice Trump sniffing all the time. Coke user?
— Howard Dean (@GovHowardDean) September 27, 2016
Trump, for his part, has since denied that he was sniffling, claiming that what millions of people actually heard was just a “very bad” microphone perhaps picking up the way he breathes.
But Trump’s sinuses weren’t the only meme to take off on the cyber. “The cyber” itself was turned into one.
Addressing a question about how he’d handle cybersecurity and the threat of cyberwarfare, Trump repeatedly made mention of “the cyber,” while muddying any indication of who the U.S. should be focusing on to stymie these attacks. The answer, by a man who is accused of cozying up to Vladimir Putin—the Russian president who is believed to be behind hacks into the DNC, election websites, and other targets—was so thoroughly discordant and nonsensical, that it met all the criteria of memeification.
— Jen Lewis (@thisjenlewis) September 27, 2016
— Jon Humbert (@jonhumbert) September 27, 2016
By contrast, Hillary Clinton was mostly the subject of memes that celebrated her on-stage victory and retorts.
That time Clinton shoulder shimmied in response to Trump’s accusation of possessing the wrong temperament to be president.
— ElSassyPants (@KatieElsaesser) September 27, 2016
That time Clinton responded to Trump’s accusation of “staying home” while he visited “the inner cities.”
Clinton: “I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. Yes I did and I prepared to be president. That’s a good thing.” pic.twitter.com/iC6MRhH3kx
— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) September 27, 2016
Are these memes particularly high-brow? No, of course not. Few are. But these are the sorts of things you get when watching the most-tweeted about debate in history. And just in case some of this tomfoolery makes you question the state of political discourse in this country—particularly as last night’s debate played in the shadow of pleas from journalists, politicians, and pundits for a “jokes aside, this is serious” disposition—just know that Twitter was used for more important stuff, too. It was also the site of much real-time fact checking, where Trump took took the lion’s share of falsehoods.
All’s fair in memes and war.