7 surprise moments from a tumultuous year in politics

7 surprise moments from a tumultuous year in politics
© Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/Getty Images

The last year has been one for forget for millions given the coronavirus pandemic, an economic meltdown and the social cost of being away from friends and family amid national and local lockdowns. 

It was also a year that featured a divisive presidential election and nationwide protests for racial justice following police killings of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky., and George Floyd in Minneapolis.

There were also some lighter moments that won't be forgotten, some of which reflected the real divide in U.S. politics that seemingly grew wider by the week. Others were mere moments in time where the world collectively said "what the heck?"


Here are seven of them.

Pelosi rips up Trump's State of the Union speech

Before the coronavirus changed the year, the divisions in Washington were on full display at the State of the Union address in February.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSenators shed masks after CDC lifts mandate House extends proxy voting to July On The Money: IRS to start monthly payments of child tax credit July 15 | One-fourth of Americans took financial hits in 2020: Fed MORE (D-Calif.) sent waves across the Twitter-verse when she ripped up her copy of President TrumpDonald TrumpGOP-led Maricopa County board decries election recount a 'sham' Analysis: Arpaio immigration patrol lawsuit to cost Arizona county at least 2 million Conservatives launch 'anti-cancel culture' advocacy organization MORE's prepared remarks at the conclusion of his speech.


Trump before the address had appeared to snub Pelosi by refusing to shake her hand when she offered it.

She later referred to her actions as “the courteous thing to do given the alternatives.”

The two leaders have not spoken throughout the year, underscoring the poisonous relationship between two of the most powerful people in Washington.

Biden says ‘you ain't Black’ if you support Trump

President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden's quiet diplomacy under pressure as Israel-Hamas fighting intensifies Overnight Defense: Administration approves 5M arms sale to Israel | Biden backs ceasefire in call with Netanyahu | Military sexual assault reform push reaches turning point CDC mask update sparks confusion, opposition MORE won his party's presidential nomination and defeated Trump in the general election in party by staying disciplined on the campaign trail. 

But the president-elect wasn't completely gaffe proof.

In May, he had perhaps his biggest misstep on the campaign trail during an interview on the popular radio show “The Breakfast Club.”

“Well, I tell you what, if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t Black,” Bidendrew said toward the end of a conversation with host Charlamagne Tha God.

Biden later apologized for the remark, which drew criticism from some fellow Democrats as well as Republicans.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the highest-ranking African American lawmaker, said he “cringed” when he heard Biden's comment, while adding that no one is perfect and that he still viewed Biden as better than "the alternative," a reference to Trump.

A fly lands on Pence's head at debate

Vice presidential debates are generally forgettable, and for this most part, this year's battle between Republican Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceBiden, Harris release 2020 tax returns Trump signals he's ready to get back in the game Simon & Schuster CEO Jonathan Karp defends Pence book deal: report MORE and Democrat Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris, Hispanic Caucus meet on Central America Harris headlining Asian American Democratic PAC's summit Here's why Joe Biden polls well, but Kamala Harris does not MORE was no exception.

Except for one moment.

Toward the end of the debate, a fly landed on Pence's head. It was only there for a minute or so, but it seemed interminable and it was enough to set off Twitter and lead to a parody on "Saturday Night Live."

Biden shared a tweet asking for supporters to donate to his “campaign fly.”

Singer Lizzo later carried the moment into Halloween, dressing up as the fly and posing in a video that had an image of Pence's head in the background. She also pinned vote buttons to her outfit, calling for Americans to exercise their right to vote ahead of November’s presidential election.


Giuliani holds presser at Four Seasons Total Landscaping


A press conference at the Four Seasons hotel this was not.

The day the networks called the election for Biden, Trump lawyer Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiGiuliani asks judge to block review of records seized in raid of home, office Journalism dies in newsroom cultures where 'fairness is overrated' Giuliani hires attorneys who defended Harvey Weinstein MORE held a big press conference at the Philadelphia Four Seasons. The Four Seasons Total Landscaping.

Even Trump seemed to be confused about the location. He initially tweeted that the news conference would take place at the Philadelphia hotel then quickly deleted it with the correct location.

The landscaping store, which is located near a sex shop, a crematorium and a jail, proved to be an unlikely location for a presidential campaign to hold a press conference, and it went viral following the event.

The shop later sold T-shirts, hoodies and stickers with the business’s logo, along with slogans like “Lawn and Order” and “Make America Rake Again.”

Ocasio-Cortez blasts 'culture of sexism'

One of the most memorable moments on Capitol Hill was a brief interaction between two lawmakers outside the Capitol, which was overheard by a reporter from The Hill.


As Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezMarjorie Taylor Greene may be 'dangerous,' but she's not the first Sunrise Movement endorses Nina Turner in special election for Ohio House seat Islamic Jihad commander killed in airstrike, Israel says MORE (D-N.Y.) was approaching the building she came across conservative Rep. Ted YohoTheodore (Ted) Scott YohoOcasio-Cortez on Taylor Greene: 'These are the kinds of people that I threw out of bars all the time' Ocasio-Cortez: 'No consequences' in GOP for violence, racism 7 surprise moments from a tumultuous year in politics MORE (R-Fla.).

The two engaged in a heated discussion about anti-crime policies, with Yoho saying she was "disgusting" and "out of [her] freaking mind" for suggesting that petty crimes in New York could be connected to poverty in the city. Ocasio-Cortez responded by saying he was being “rude.”

When the two finally parted ways, Yoho offered a parting thought to no one in particular: "Fucking bitch," he said.

After The Hill and other outlets wrote about the conversation, Ocasio-Cortez gave a speech on the House floor condemning a "culture" of sexism on Capitol Hill.

In a rare move, House Democrats allotted an hour for Ocasio-Cortez to speak on the House floor. While she only took around 10 minutes, several other Democrats followed to blast Yoho's behavior.

A confusing Iowa caucus

Iowa's Democratic caucus in February sparked mass confusion in the first contest of the 2020 Democratic primary.

No winner was declared on election night due to irregularities and inconsistencies in reporting the results, with lots of finger pointing between state and national Democrats.

The errors were blamed on a new app that was used to send tallies to the state party in Des Moines. The technical issues led to a delay in the release of partial and final results.

Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegInfrastructure deal imperiled by differences on financing Biden says he and GOP both 'sincere about' seeking infrastructure compromise The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Colonial pays hackers as service is restored MORE (D) eventually won the most delegates, while Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSenators shed masks after CDC lifts mandate Sunrise Movement endorses Nina Turner in special election for Ohio House seat The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Israel-Hamas carnage worsens; Dems face SALT dilemma MORE (I-Vt.) won the most votes.

An autopsy report commissioned by the Iowa Democratic Party and released in December concluded that the numerous mistakes were mainly driven by a combination of interference from the Democratic National Committee and statewide blunders.

And suddenly everyone backs Biden

Biden seemed like a goner politically after disappointing outcomes in Iowa and New Hampshire.

As it turned out, he had his opponents where he wanted them.

Biden roared from behind to win the South Carolina primary handily, and then in an unusual series of events saw many of his top rivals endorse him ahead of the Super Tuesday contests.

It all led up to an event where former Democratic candidates Pete Buttigieg, Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeO'Rourke clarifies remarks, leaves door open to gubernatorial bid O'Rourke says he's not planning on run for Texas governor O'Rourke slams Cruz for video of border visit MORE and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Klobuchar Klobuchar offers tribute to her father, who died Wednesday The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Cheney poised to be ousted; Biden to host big meeting Senate panel deadlocks in vote on sweeping elections bill MORE (D-Minn.) rallied behind Biden the night before Super Tuesday.

The next day, Biden routed his final top rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Days later, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSenators shed masks after CDC lifts mandate Helping students make informed decisions on college Student debt cancellation advocates encouraged by Biden, others remain skeptical MORE (D-Mass.) and former New York Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergThe imminent crises facing Joe Biden Yang: 'Defund the police is the wrong approach for New York City' New York mayoral candidates go viral for vastly underestimating housing costs MORE had also thrown their support to Biden, and the race for the Democratic nomination was all but over.