Beto O'Rourke smiles and waves out the window as he drives away in a large truck.

We Really Don’t Need To Both-Sides Beto’s F-Bomb

He said a bad word about a worse thing, it's fine.

Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke—who is already known among his supporters as being a uniquely candid politician—had an exceptionally raw moment at a campaign rally this week.

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O’Rourke was speaking to a crowd in North Texas about the recent shooting in Uvalde that left 19 elementary school students and two adults dead. He was in the middle of railing against a system that would allow military assault rifles to be purchased legally, only to be used to murder young children, when someone in the crowd laughed. O’Rourke whipped around, pointed at the person, and said plainly, “It might be funny to you, motherfucker, but it’s not funny to me.”

If you haven’t watched it yet, I highly recommend you take a minute to do so:

The crowd in the room erupted in cheers and applause, and the internet reacted similarly. The moment pretty much immediately went viral, with that original video currently sitting at more than 8 million views. Pretty much everyone who shared it did so with messages praising Beto’s candidness and his empathy.

However, anyone familiar with the patterns of mainstream news media knew that praise and excitement couldn’t last long without someone stepping in to clutch their pearls and insist we all do the same. It took less than 24 hours for NPR to claim that spot.

“Voters like to see a sense of authenticity in candidates, especially in Texas. But cursing and vulgar language in front of children and the elderly more often than not crosses the line,” the outlet tweeted. The article itself states that “while the former U.S. Representative received cheers from the crowd, political experts say he went too far.”

Personally, I would like to know who the fuck cares.

The “experts” in the article wring their hands over how this sort attempt to “seem authentic”—as if it was a planned moment of keen strategy rather than believing it might have actually been a genuine reaction to a monstrous response to tragedy—can ruin a candidate’s reputation. One of the experts also says this sort of “jaw-dropping language in public can be counterproductive because it leaves the audience and members of the media flabbergasted. Instead of talking about a candidate’s message, they’re focused on their audacious choice of words.”

Apparently that’s true, seeing as NPR is insisting on discussing that language. But they seem (so far) to be the only ones doing so, or they’re at least in the minority with their response. Everyone else is more concerned about seeing 19 children murdered—and about the idea that someone could laugh at that—than they are about seeing a politician respond honestly and forcefully to the issue.

(image: Sergio Flores/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.