When an award show is on TV, Twitter becomes a hellscape of predictable memes, quips and hashtags from those who are trying to go viral live-tweeting the thing. Some of the live-tweeters are brands, and sometimes those brands do a tweet that is a bad idea.
This time, the brand was NBC, the award show was the Golden Globes, and this was the tweet:
No news cycle is more predictable than the Bad Tweet from a Brand cycle, particularly when a major national news outlet is a division of that brand, and the tweet has a possible political interpretation.
On Monday, NBC announced that it had deleted the tweet, but the damage was already done. The tweet is already a thing, and below is a guide to how that happened.
Step 1: NBC did a bad tweet
NBC airs the Golden Globes on TV. On Twitter, the network was providing a full multimedia experience by also tweeting out commentary about the show — live. One of those tweets was the Oprah tweet.
This tweet does have a context: Seth Meyers’s opening monologue, which contained an extended section joking about how Oprah Winfrey should run for president:
Oprah Winfrey is receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award tonight. What a tremendous honor for Cecil B. DeMille. Oprah, while I have you, in 2011 I told some jokes about our current president at the White House correspondents’ dinner, jokes about how he was unqualified to be president. And some have said that night convinced him to run. So, if that’s true, I just want to say: Oprah, you will never be president! You do not have what it takes. And Hanks! Where’s Hanks? You will never be vice president. You are too mean and unrelatable. Now we just wait and see.
The actual tweet, “Nothing but respect for OUR future president,” references a popular Twitter meme. The meme evolved from a viral tweet over the summer of a Trump supporter cleaning graffiti off Donald Trump’s Hollywood star, writing “Nothing but respect for MY president.”
The meme involves juxtaposing the same text with pictures of other celebrity Hollywood stars, or, alternatively, just a picture of literally anything or anyone else.
Step 2: People see the tweet
The NBC tweet was retweeted a few thousand times. The cached version of the now-deleted tweet we were able to view had more than 17,000 likes. People liked the tweet!
Step 3: People don’t like the tweet
Others were furious about it.
The account that tweeted the Oprah joke was @NBC, which is the handle that represents the National Broadcasting Company. It wasn’t NBC News’s account, @NBCNews, which represents the news outlets and operations that are owned by NBCUniversal.
But on Twitter, particularly among right-leaning users, the tweet was treated as proof of “bias” from any news outlet with NBC in its name.
This is the main reason NBC’s tweet was bad: Although the @NBC handle is run separately from their news operations, it opened up their actual news outlets to a perception that their company is openly supporting an Oprah Winfrey run for president against Trump.
By now, the people running the social media for a major operation with a news division should be aware of how that perception can become a mini news cycle in the pro-Trump parts of the Internet.
Which is basically what happened here:
Step 4: NBC deletes the tweet
On Monday, as tweets noting the Bad NBC Tweet continued to get attention, NBC announced that they had deleted the tweet, which was “not meant to be a political statement.”
Step 5: The bad tweet becomes content
The tweet is now a news story. Soon, however, someone else will do a bad tweet, and our collective attention will move on.