Mercedes Schlapp, the senior advisor to Donald Trump‘s presidential campaign, attempted to insult Joe Biden on Twitter during the two candidates’ dueling town halls by comparing him to beloved TV star Fred Rogers. That failed brilliantly, of course. Schlapp was treated with ridicule after tweeting that tuning into Biden’s town hall event “feels like I am watching an episode of Mister Rogers Neighborhood.” There’s one thing Twitter wanted to know: why in the world is that a bad thing?
Rogers was the creator and star of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the iconic and wholesome children’s program that ran from 1968 to 2001. Rogers was known for being immensely kind, soft-spoken, and caring. He sought to help children understand serious topics and the world at large in a gentle way. Rogers died in 2003 from stomach cancer, but his legacy lives on. He was the subject of the 2018 documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? as well as the 2019 film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, in which he was played by Tom Hanks.
Twitter erupted after Schlapp’s baffling attempt at an insult. “Take it from the editor of the Fred Rogers biography: this is this most ridiculous self-own in ages. You have no idea how much America wishes it felt like it was watching an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood right now,” editor Jamison Stoltz tweeted. “My kids watched Mister Rogers. I had the pleasure of spending a day with him. The fact that you regard this as an insult speaks volumes,” tweeted political analyst Jeff Greenfield.
“Is this supposed to be negative??? Mister Rogers was one of the kindest, greatest human beings who ever lived,” a Twitter user asked. It’s true, in comparison to Trump’s town hall airing on another network at the same time, Biden’s event was downright peaceful. During Trump’s hour on NBC, he sparred with host Savannah Guthrie, cutting down her questions as “cute” and refusing to take responsibility for retweeting conspiracy theories — to the point that she shouted that he’s “the president, not some crazy uncle.”
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