Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clint Eastwood's 'Invisible Obama' fires up social media

Clint Eastwood's debate with an empty chair before 50,000 fans at the Republican National Convention has become much more than the strangest campaign incident in modern history.

It is also a bona-fide social media phenomenon, spawning an Invisible Obama Twitter page with nearly 50,000 followers, scores of tweets questioning the Hollywood legend's sanity and a viral video of MSNBC host Rachel Maddow pronouncing that moment "the weirdest thing I've ever seen if I live to be 100."

For several minutes Thursday night during the tightly scripted RNC, Eastwood, 82, pretended to have a conversation with an imaginary, transparent President Barack Obama. The rambling performance, right before Sen. Marco Rubio was to introduce Mitt Romney, showed just how quickly new media has changed the response to an embarrassing mistake.

Within minutes, someone created the Twitter page @InvisibleObama, kicking off with a message reading "Someone should tell Marco Rubio he's standing on my foot right now."

Before the last delegate could leave the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the Obama campaign had posted its own retort to Eastwood's taunt on Twitter and Facebook: a picture of the seated chief executive from behind, his trademark ears and a plaque on the back of the chair reading "The president", with the message, "This seat's taken."

By midday Friday, that image had been retweeted nearly 40,000 times on Twitter and liked by nearly 400,000 people on Facebook.

A reporter for the website BuzzFeed posted a photo of four empty chairs sitting in his workspace, calling it "A visit from the Obama family." Scores of people have posted photos of themselves pointing at and lecturing empty chairs, coining a new term with their hashtag: #Eastwooding.

In an essay for Newsweek/Daily Beast titled "The Creepiness of Crazy Clint," liberal documentarian Michael Moore wrote that future generations "will know about the night a crazy old man hijacked a national party's most important gathering so he could literally tell the president to go do something to himself."

Daily Show host Jon Stewart tweaked Eastwood Friday during a taping at the Straz Center in Tampa, calling his outburst a "fistful of awesome" which revealed more extreme conservative ideas the RNC tried to downplay.

"He spent 12 minutes on the most important night of Mitt Romney's life yelling at a chair," Stewart said.

Eastwood did seem a little befuddled while asking the empty chair about Obama's promises to close the terrorist detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and his advance declaration of troop withdrawals from Afghanistan.

"What? What do you want me to tell Romney?" he deadpanned at one moment. "I can't tell him to do that to himself."

Eastwood created a moment that eclipsed the GOP presidential candidate's triumph in Tampa, turning a hefty part of Friday's news cycle into "the search for who thought this was a good idea."

The New York Times uncorked a story noting many of the candidate's top aides distanced themselves from the decision to allow Eastwood onstage without a rehearsal or a detailed script, and top Romney adviser Stuart Stevens described Eastwood's remarks as improvised. According to the story, Romney himself asked the actor to speak at the RNC after Eastwood endorsed him earlier in the year.

Initially, the Times reported, there were no plans for Eastwood to take a chair onstage. But at the last minute, he asked the production staff if he could use one without explaining why.

For a convention shortened by weather and limited by its scripted inevitability, the RNC found media-fed dustups provided its only unpredictable spice, fed by social media chatter like gasoline poured on fire.

Clint Eastwood's 'Invisible Obama' fires up social media 08/31/12 [Last modified: Saturday, September 1, 2012 12:53am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Shark Week 2017: Michael Phelps races a shark and other must-see specials

    Blogs

    It's that time of year again. No, not back to school month or geek convention season -- it's Shark Week.

    For almost 30 years, Discovery Channel has brought a full week of special programs on the toothy underwater predators through Shark Week.
  2. HomeTeam 100: Players 51-60

    Footballpreps

    TAMPA - Wharton defensive back AJ Hampton will help lead the Wildcats into the 2017 season. Taken 7-6-17 by Scott Purks
  3. Clearwater Beach driver's roommate thought she could help turn his life around

    Crime

    CLEARWATER — Ryan Michael Stiles wanted to start fresh. Sarah Lynn Wright wanted to help.

    Ryan Michael Stiles, 27, is seen while driving his vehicle on Clearwater Beach Thursday, July 20, 2017. Stiles was stopped on the north end of Caladesi Island after driving up from Clearwater Beach, police said. [Facebook]
  4. The Iron Yard coding academy to close in St. Petersburg

    Business

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Iron Yard, a code-writing academy with a location in downtown St. Petersburg, will close for good this summer.

    Instructors (from left) Mark Dewey, Jason Perry, and Gavin Stark greet the audience at The Iron Yard, 260 1st Ave. S, in St. Petersburg during "Demo Day" Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, at The Iron Yard, which is an immersive code school that is part of a trend of trying to address the shortage of programmers.  The academy is closing this summer.  [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  5. Florida's unemployment rate drops for fourth straight month

    Markets

    How low can Florida's unemployment go? Pretty low, according to the state's latest unemployment numbers. The Sunshine State's unemployment rate dropped to 4.1 percent for June, down from 4.3 percent in May, state officials said Friday morning.

    Florida's unemployment level dropped to 4.1 percent in June from 4.3 percent in May. |  [Times file photo]