Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) may have broken a Guinness World Record on Thursday — if there’s one for guest starring in the most movies and music videos in a single night.
Hawley hit the music scene next, appearing in Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” Van Halen’s “Runnin’ With the Devil” and Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill,” the 1985 song recently resurrected and whipped to the top of the charts thanks to its prominence in the Netflix show “Stranger Things.”
But the footage of Hawley was all the same: two clips that aired in prime time during the most recent hearing of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Both showed Hawley running from rioters as they poured into the building, according to the committee.
While the videos drew laughter from the hearing’s audience in real time, the internet was just getting started. Within minutes and then for hours, people mercilessly roasted Hawley.
Some set the videos to music — mostly songs with lyrics about running. Others dabbled in wordplay by creating a new term to describe what the junior senator from Missouri was doing: Hawlin’. Most just posted memes — of Forrest Gump sprinting at the start of his run across the country; of the Road Runner zooming down the road with a “Meep meep”; of “Seinfeld” character George Costanza shoving an elderly woman and several children to escape a fire at a kids’ birthday party.
“I will drink from the well of Josh Hawley content for the rest of the week,” one Twitter user wrote.
Hawley’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post late Thursday.
Aside from the brief burst of laughter, things remained somber at Thursday’s hearing. Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) introduced Hawley as the senator who, while passing protesters as he walked across the east side of the Capitol on Jan. 6, held up his fist in solidarity with them before entering the building.
A U.S. Capitol police officer protecting the building reported to the committee that Hawley’s gesture “riled up the crowd,” Luria said, with a giant version of the fist-pump photo projected behind her. The officer told the committee that Hawley’s behavior “bothered her greatly” because he agitated the protesters from “a safe space,” protected by the barricades and police between him and any mob that might form. He then entered the Capitol, leaving officers on the front lines to deal with the fallout, she said.
But that safe space didn’t last, Luria said. “Later that day, Sen. Hawley fled after those protesters he helped to rile up stormed the Capitol.”
“See for yourself,” Luria added.
The videos played. A three-second clip showed Hawley bounding down the halls of the Capitol, passing several officers, which Luria said the senator did to escape rioters flooding into the building. The committee replayed the footage in slow-mo for good measure. Then came a six-second clip showing Hawley whisking his way down a flight of stairs with others.
Hawley has defended saluting Jan. 6 protesters with a fist pump before contesting the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral win over President Donald Trump. The senator asserted that, like him, many of them came to peacefully protest and called lumping those people in with rioters “a slur on the thousands and thousands, tens of thousands of people who came to the Capitol that day to demonstrate peacefully.”
Hawley has continued to make political hay — and money — out of the fist-pump picture. Hawley slapped a rendition of the image on several pieces of merchandise, along with the slogan “SHOW-ME STRONG!” — a reference to Missouri’s nickname, “the Show-Me State” — and began selling the items in February, the Missouri Independent reported in March.
Internet users keyed in on Luria’s juxtaposition of the fist-bump photo and the running videos to target Hawley. Using a popular meme, one user categorized Hawley’s fist-pump photo as messing around and a still image of him fleeing as “finding out.”
Some Twitter users stuck to the classic one-liner format in taking a dig at Hawley. There was the zinger from a freelance writer and editor in California: “From now on, if political reporters ask Josh Hawley if he’s planning to run, he’s going to have to ask them to clarify.”
A TV and film producer: “The Missouri Dems should host an annual Josh Hawley 5K as a fundraiser.”
And a political adviser, who took the opportunity to try to bolster voter turnout: “Y’all better run to the polls like Josh Hawley ran from the insurrection.”
Others drew more heavily from the language of the internet to roast Hawley. In a tweet that had racked up 13 million views by Friday morning, another TV producer posted a four-second GIF of a guy sprinting with the caption: “How Josh Hawley fled the Capitol on January 6th.”
Legendary TV journalist Dan Rather piled on, keeping it straightforward: “Run Hawley Run.” A Twitter user came in with the assist, replying to Rather’s allusion to “Forrest Gump” with the GIF of the character played by Tom Hanks sprinting.
Political commentator Charlie Sykes saw the internet value of the Hawley videos immediately. Moments after the clips were shown publicly, he was ready to call it.
“Running Josh Hawley,” he wrote, “is a meme for the ages.”