President's YouTube Tea Party 'smackdown' goes viral


A TWO-YEAR-OLD clip featuring President Michael D Higgins deriding a conservative US talk show host took on a new lease of life and went “viral” yesterday. By late last night it had been viewed more than one million times.

There has been huge reaction to it from users of social networking sites in the United States where it was described yesterday as a “Tea Party smackdown”.

The clip dates from 2010 when a debate took place on Newstalk radio between Mr Higgins, then a Labour Party TD, and the Boston talk show host and Tea Party advocate Michael Graham. In the clip from a debate about foreign policy on George Hook’s programme, Mr Higgins tells Graham to “be proud to be a decent American rather than being just a w**ker whipping up fear”.

The sudden spike in traffic for the clip is linked to social network sharing site On Wednesday it posted the clip with the headline, “a Tea Partier decided to pick a fight with a foreign president. It didn’t go so well.”

In the post, Mansur Gidfar of Upworthy wrote that Michael D Higgins was “fed up with over-the-top Tea Party rhetoric, and he isn’t afraid to show it. Listen to him call out radio host Michael Graham on everything from healthcare to foreign policy. Trust me, you don’t want to miss this.”

By last night the story had received over a million unique page views (1,041,032) on the Upworthy site and had become the site's most widely viewed post ever, a spokesman told The Irish Times. The Upworthy story was shared 60,184 times on Facebook and 28,230 times on Twitter, he said.

A link to the clip was also retweeted by some influential American tweeters, with some 50,000 followers, including actor Mia Farrow, Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi and author Jeffrey Feldman.

Half a million followers received the link in a tweet from evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins describing Mr Higgins as “no ordinary president”. The clip was posted on YouTube in February 2012 by a pro-Obama blogger. “It made the rounds on a couple of political blogs a few months back but never gained any significant traction,” Gidfar told The Irish Times yesterday. “It was a great clip, though, so I thought it was worth trying to send it viral again,” he added.

“For a lot of Americans, it’s incredibly rare to hear someone emphatically reject Tea Party talking points so straightforwardly in a media setting,” he said.

Yesterday, Graham tweeted: “If opposing Arab terrorists and supporting Israel’s right to self-defence still means I’m a ‘w**ker’, nothing’s changed.”

A spokesman for Mr Higgins had no comment to make.

You can listen to Mr Higgins debate with Graham here.