The Best Political Twitter Fights of 2014
At the center of every good political feud is the sense that the participants are being more than a little petty and immature. Politicians (and their staffers) are generally guarded, scripted, and boring, but when David Axelrod subtweets Hillary Clinton or Rand Paul tweets that Marco Rubio wants to build a moat, it’s the political equivalent of a pretty good episode of The Real Housewives.
Like reality television, political feuds are mostly insignificant in the grand scheme of things, and generate a lot more attention (clicks) than they may deserve. But they’re fun to watch, especially when they play out on Twitter, where people tend to choose their words less carefully.
In that spirit, here are the seven best political feuds of 2014.
1. Marco Rubio vs. Rand Paul
Paul is on track to have a public feud with every Republican presidential hopeful by the time the first candidate formally declares his candidacy. The Kentucky senator traded barbs over foreign policy disagreements with Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Texas Governor Rick Perry (in a Politico op-ed, Paul wrote that “apparently [Perry’s] new glasses haven’t altered his perception of the world, or allowed him to see it any more clearly”), and most recently his colleague from Florida.
While Paul supports President Barack Obama’s decision to normalize ties with Cuba, Rubio does not. “Like many people that have been opining, [Paul] has no idea what he’s talking about,” Rubio said during a Fox News segment. Paul responded on Twitter.
“Well, first of all, Rand, if he wants to become the chief cheerleader of Obama's foreign policy, he certainly has a right to do that,” Rubio said when asked about the tweets on ABC News’ “This Week.”
2. Donald Trump vs. BuzzFeed
In February, BuzzFeed reporter McKay Coppins published a piece on Donald Trump’s political career, “a long con that the blustery billionaire has perpetrated on the country for 25 years by repeatedly pretending to consider various runs for office, only to bail out after generating hundreds of headlines.”
Trump was furious, to say the least. He fired the staffer who helped organize the piece, and made several efforts to discredit Coppins with the help of Breitbart’s Matthew Boyle.
Honorable mention: The overwhelming majority of Trump’s Twitter feed.
3. Al Roker vs. Bill de Blasio
The short version of this feud is that Roker, a Today co-anchor and weatherman for The Weather Channel, was very, very, very upset that de Blasio (or “DiBlasio,” as Roker spelled it), the New York City mayor, decided not to close schools during a major storm, though surrounding areas did. BuzzFeed collected the full tweetstorm, but this captures the gist of his argument.
During a press conference at the time, de Blasio said that he respected Roker, but that “it’s a different thing to run the city than to give the weather on TV.” To which Roker replied:
4. Rob Ford vs. Kevin Spacey
This “feud” started when Spacey (who plays a politician who has killed people) wound up in the same dressing room as Ford (a real former mayor of Toronto who has threatened to kill people) when they both appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” in March. Spacey joked that Ford had thrown up all over the dressing room.
On the Ford brothers’ YouTube channel, the two responded by calling him an “arrogant SOB” and asking him to get off his high horse and take pictures with people. So Spacey did, kind of.
5. Former Obama aides vs. Chuck Schumer
Just before Thanksgiving, Schumer, a Democratic senator from New York, told the National Press Club that Democrats “blew the opportunity the American people gave them” by passing health reform in 2009 instead of policies to help the middle class. Several former Obama aides viewed the comments as cynical. Former National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor tweeted:
Former Obama speechwriter Jon Lovett wrote that cynicism has been Schumer’s modus operandi forever.
Jon Favreau, another former speechwriter, was also unimpressed.
Schumer was also criticized by elected members of his party. “We come here to do a job, not keep a job,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement to CNN.
6. David Axelrod vs. Hillary Clinton
Clinton, the former secretary of state, drew fire from Team Obama in August when, in an interview with the Atlantic, she criticized Obama’s “don’t do stupid stuff” foreign policy. “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle,” she said.
Of course, one of the complaints from the left against Clinton is that she’s too hawkish, and she supported the Iraq War when she was a New York senator. Axelrod, a former Obama adviser, used that as the jumping point for one of the better subtweets of the year.
7. Piers Morgan vs. everyone who hated his show
Piers Morgan Tonight, the title-anchor’s cancelled CNN show, had the unique ability of uniting people from all backgrounds ... in outrage. Morgan upset conservatives when he criticized America’s support for guns in the wake of Sandy Hook, and offended the transgender community when he repeatedly referred to author Janet Mock as “formerly a boy” during an interview. The Mock backlash heated up when he tweeted that he was a victim of prejudice against people who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.
Both pro-gun conservatives and LGBT rights supporters were pleased when the network ended the show.
The end of the show also stirred up the Larry King-Piers Morgan feud. In May, and again in August, King questioned the wisdom of replacing him with a “Britisher,” Talking Points Memo noted. Morgan responded by accusing King of ruining CNN’s 9 p.m. ratings and the following: