Is #Trumpsniffles the new sweaty Nixon? Trump's irritated nose distracts viewers at first presidential debate with Clinton

One Hillary Clinton supporter, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, asked if Trump was a ‘coke user’

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 September, 2016, 11:58am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 September, 2016, 11:11pm

Someone pass Donald Trump a tissue, quick.

Trump sniffled repeatedly throughout Monday night’s first presidential debate, suffering with an itchy or stuffed-up nose that distracted viewers as he argued against Hillary Clinton – despite months of declaring himself the “healthiest candidate ever”.

While Trump had access to a glass of water, which he repeatedly drank from, there was no handkerchief in sight. (Hillary did not reach for her glass once during the 90-minute debate).

Trump’s sniffles were particularly unfortunately timed after he called into question his rival’s stamina and his supporters hounded Clinton over her health and occasional coughing fits for months, claiming they were part of larger health issues she supposedly suffered following a fall and blood clot in 2012.

After video of Clinton almost fainting during a 9/11 memorial event in New York, Clinton admitted that she’d been diagnosed with pneumonia and spent four days off the campaign trail.

With both candidates in their late 60s, the issue of health has dominated the campaign. After the pneumonia diagnosis, Clinton released in-depth health records from her doctor and Trump spoke with TV host Dr Oz about his own health. Clinton is known to suffer from seasonal allergies, but Trump’s records don’t show anything to explain the sniffling.

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But #Trumpsniffles quickly became a popular topic on Twitter – at least amongst those on the political left (Trump supporters seemed to ignore the sniffing completely). Social media users made comparisons to Trump’s sniffles and Richard Nixon’s disastrous debate with Democrat John F Kennedy in 1960 - the first televised American presidential debate.

Those watching on TV declared the seemingly healthy looking Kennedy the victor over a vice-president who appeared exhausted, sweaty and pale.

Stu Loeser, a Democratic strategist and former spokesman to then New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, kept a tally of the nasal-drip sniffles going throughout the debate.

Others revelled in the schadenfreude of Trump suffering a health issue.

One Hillary Clinton supporter, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, took it one step further, posting on Twitter: “Notice Trump sniffing all the time. Coke user?”

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the Republican nominee’s health or Dean’s question. Clinton did not bring it up during the debate.

Meanwhile, Trump also claimed after the debate that he was given a “defective” microphone.

“I wonder: was that on purpose?” he asked.

Trump’s claim about the microphone is far from the first time he has suggested that outside forces have conspired against him. He has warned his supporters several times that he believed he could lose in November because the general election would be “rigged.”

Twitter said the debate was the most tweeted-about political moment in the social media company’s history. Trump was the focus of 62 per cent of the conversation on the social media platform, Twitter said.

On Facebook, conversations about Trump made up 79 per cent of debate chatter, while Clinton’s share of the conversation was 21 per cent.

Even so, sentiment appeared to go Clinton’s way. Social media analytics firm Zoomph said tweets mentioning Clinton ended at a ratio of about 1.5 to 1, which meant that for every negative mention, there were 1.5 positive mentions, Zoomph said.

Sentiment toward Trump fluctuated, but ended nearly flat at a ratio of one positive mention to every negative one.

The most tweeted-about topics were the economy, foreign affairs, energy and environment, terrorism and guns.

Additional reporting by Associated Press and Reuters