With 2014 coming to close, it’s time to look back at the highlights from a hearty year of deleted tweets from politicians archived on Politwoops. 2014 was a fine one for the project with the Washington Post calling it “an invaluable accountability resource,” the Daily Beast saying it’s a “tech innovation” and Wonkette referring to it as “always-valuable.”
This year, 86% of the nearly 1,300 accounts we followed deleted a tweet, compared to 76% from the year before. Politwoops collected 682,980 tweets and caught 19,195 deletions, though only 5,203 deletions were approved as we screen out corrected typos, Twitter handles and dead links. The rate of approval fell to 27% from last year’s 32%, and the volume of deletions nearly doubled as it was an election year.
Top Deletions of 2014
- Inhofe’s delete-spree – Over the course of a few days in early December, the campaign account for Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., scrubbed more than 300 tweets. Spanning from his recent reelection to before the 2012 presidential election, the deletions made Politwoops an impromptu Inhofe campaign archive. After inquiring about the bulk removal, his staff responded that his campaign account was being transferred to an official account and that “Senate rules require all tweets that are campaign related” to be deleted.
- “Shagging” goes viral – The official account for Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn., offered us all a lesson in how not to handle an honest account mix up. A tweet saying “God I love this song. And beach music. AND shagging” that linked to a song on Pandora was deleted after 9 hours. Instead of tweeting out an explanation, his communications director Elizabeth Lauten waited until press contacted her, first telling The Hill that “a staffer’s Pandora account was somehow connected to the lawmaker’s Twitter account” and then after more press calls, told Politico she was that staffer. Lauten later resigned after she remarked that the Obama children should “try showing a little class” and “Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar.”
- Non-coordinating coordination – Before Jon Stewart’s famous “#McConnelling” segment about how campaigns post video b-roll for Super PACs to use, Politwoops caught Senator-elect Thom Tillis, R-N.C., deleting two montages of video in February. Gov. David Ige, D-Hawaii, did the same thing in October and both did not respond to a request for comment.
- All about the money – It was likely a simple butt tweet, but a deletion that said “$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$” resonated with Politwoops visitors. It came in July from the official account of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and matched up nicely with a quote from a retiring Senator who said, “time is so consumed with raising money now.” A number of months later, the campaign account for Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser, D-D.C., deleted a retweet that said, “$$$$it’s$$$$$all$$$$$about$$$$$$$the$$$$$$.” The deletion was of a tweet responding to Washington Post reporter, Mike DeBonis, who pointed out Bowser was using the recent endorsement of President Obama to fundraise.
- Delete fresh – In September, the official account of Governor Robert Bentley, R-Ala., deleted a tweet saying, “Glad to be back in Alabama” with the image of him ordering at a Subway. It was a rather unremarkable tweet, but it prompted responses from his followers saying things like “Nice to see the Gov enjoying a local favorite,” “This doesn’t really help us governor” and “Nothing says Alabama like subway?” Whoever runs his Twitter account, folded to the haters and deleted the tweet after two hours.
- #TelltheTruthTommy – Representative-elect Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., deleted 26 tweets taking on an attack ad from his primary opponent Tommy Moll. They all used the hashtag #TellTheTruthTommy and Westerman’s campaign manager explained that, “In response to the gracious move by our primary opponent, whose campaign deleted his attacks against our campaign from his social media accounts, we deleted our corresponding responses from our social media accounts.”
- Ted Cruz’s troll bait – In May, the official account of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, deleted a tweet with the picture to the right that said, “Did a little shopping for the office with @SenMikeLee in Houston today.” The message garnered praise from Roll Call who wrote, “Sen. Ted Cruz did a little troll hunting April 23, baiting the entirety of the Internet-enabled world with a perplexing pic of an urban safari that incited carnage across the social mediasphere” and Cruz’s spokesperson told the Washington Post, “the office is not defensive of the picture.” A week later it was deleted.
- Obamacare messaging mixup – The House GOP led a messaging charge about the number of Obamacare enrollees who have not paid their first month’s premium following a report from Republican-led House Energy and Commerce Committee. Six Republicans who shared the message ended up deleting the talking point. The numbers showing only 67% had paid were immediately disputed by spokespeople from the White House and Health & Human Services, but they never offered their own data. A month later, the committee found 80% had paid their first month’s premium and discontinued updating the numbers.
- Think of the children! – In mid-July, Adam Kwasman, an Arizona state legislator and ultimately unsuccessful Republican congressional candidate, deleted a tweet saying, “Bus coming in. This is not compassion. This is the abrogation of the rule of law. #AZ01” along with the image to the right. He thought it was a bus of migrant children that was expecting (and protesting), but it was actually some cheerful kids going to a YMCA. He told a reporter he saw the “fear on their faces” and after being told it was some kids going to camp the reporter said “[Kwasman] did back flips trying to take back the story he told me.”
- Muffed punt of the political football – In June, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was released by the Taliban after many years of being held captive. The news was greeted by many members of Congress, but the politics shifted after many objected to the prisoner exchange for five Taliban members held at Guantanamo Bay. Six politicians tried to quietly delete their initial welcoming thoughts and prayers, but Politwoops caught them all. This group of deletions was by far the most notable of the year and the deletions went unnoticed until Politwoops surfaced them. Here are those deletions:
Thank you to the politicians who graciously contributed their deletions and Politwoops can’t wait to see what you come up with in 2015!