As America’s top diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is tasked with maintaining peaceful relationships between the United States and the rest of the world. With one late-night tweet, though, he unwittingly picked a fight with a formidable domestic opponent: Simpsons Nation. Following the conclusion of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech, Pompeo posted an image from an early episode of Fox’s long-running animated series on his personal Twitter account. The image in question comes from the 1991 episode, “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington,” and depicts middle Simpsons sibling, Lisa, shredding a stack of paper while tearing up. Many instantly took it as a reference to the night’s most-memed moment: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi tearing up her copy of Trump’s speech mere moments after he finished speaking.
Reaction to Pompeo’s Simpsons shoutout was swift and savage — and no one was more savage than Lisa Simpson herself, Yeardley Smith. Earlier today, the actress fired back at the Secretary of State for “co-opting” her character.
That’s pretty good! I might just add f*ck you @mikepompeo for co-opting my character to troll @SpeakerPelosi . Be a leader and fight you own fight! Oh, wait I forgot, you’re a follower. https://t.co/EzCtEZmKzJ— Yeardley Smith (@YeardleySmith) February 5, 2020
Former Simpsons scribe, Bill Oakley, also weighed in, diplomatically requesting that Pompeo refrain from ever appropriating the show in order to score political points.
Mr. Secretary of State please do not ever ever ever use Simpsons material in your twitter or watch the show or refer to it in any way pic.twitter.com/hY0EKfEbua— BILL OAKLEY (@thatbilloakley) February 5, 2020
(To be clear this episode aired before @Joshstrangehill and I even worked on the show and was written by the genius George Meyer and I say this to Mr. Pomepo as a FAN of this episode, not someone who worked on it. If he starts using Steamed Hams, then this will become personal.)— BILL OAKLEY (@thatbilloakley) February 5, 2020
After that, it was open season for Simpsons fans, who mercilessly ridiculed Pompeo in replies to his Tweet.
You’re trying to troll Nancy with the Simpson’s?— Trinity (@TrinityResists) February 5, 2020
Dude. You just played yourself.
Self owns are the best.pic.twitter.com/0B1IXo6fiP
How is that deficit reduction that all your conservative backers complained about going these days? pic.twitter.com/R1PnpoO0fm— Ryan Cordell (@ryandcordell) February 5, 2020
Can you identify Lisa on a screen? pic.twitter.com/YYlxzYujJL— Rob Jackson (@muh_thoughts) February 5, 2020
Thank you for paying tribute to Speaker Pelosi. This is literally the moment in the episode “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington” where Lisa Simpson loses faith in democracy after she discovers her congressman is corrupt. Such a perfect self-own. pic.twitter.com/btFs0ivVD4— David Lytle ⚖️ (@davitydave) February 5, 2020
One common thread to emerge from the long thread of replies is how Pompeo either willfully misinterpreted — or just plain missed the point of — the episode he was referencing. Written by George Meyer, who penned such classic early Simpsons episodes as “Bart vs. Thanksgiving” and “Homer the Heretic,” “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington” follows Lisa on a trip to the nation’s capitol in order to read a speech extolling what America means to her. Once in Washington D.C., though, she gets a crash course in the political swamp when she discovers that her congressman, Bob Arnold, is on the payroll of Big Timber. At that point, she rips up her prepared text and writes a new monologue, one whose message is summarized in the beyond-caustic title: “Cesspool on the Potomac.”
With that important piece of context in place, the image Pompeo selected seems more like an endorsement of Pelosi than a condemnation. And in a private meeting with fellow Democrats, the Speaker channeled Lisa’s disgust, reportedly saying: “He shredded the truth, so I shredded his speech. What we heard last night was a disgrace.” Instead of owning Pelosi, Twitter is noting how Pompeo apparently committed the ultimate self-own.
Lisa Simpson ripped her paperwork up because she overheard guys talking about how corrupt they were going to be in Washington.— ╮ (⌐■_■) ╭ EASY🇩™ (@UrBroYo) February 5, 2020
I guess Pompeo is correct and Nancy Pelosi IS Lisa Simpson in this instance. https://t.co/98Kry9tngB pic.twitter.com/ydfp7MpRag
Trying to troll Nancy Pelosi with an image of Lisa Simpson tearing up her notes after realising how corrupt, facile, idiotic and ecocidal Republican lawmakers truly are might be one of the most epic self-owns in US political history https://t.co/aDOfv94tYq— Patrick Galey 🤷🏻♂️ (@patrickgaley) February 5, 2020
...If Pompeo sees a parallel between Nancy Pelosi last night and Lisa Simpson’s shattered faith from that episode, the Speaker should probably see that as a compliment! As how episode ended, the corrupt politician who caused her to tear up paper was arrested! pic.twitter.com/UuKy5seALh— Jean Jakusz (@JeanJakz) February 5, 2020
For the record, Pompeo isn’t the first Republican politician to have a Simpsons reference backfire on them. In 1990, First Lady Barbara Bush famously called the show “the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen,” inspiring family matriarch Marge (voiced by Julie Kavner) to write a widely-publicized letter that healed the rift. Two years later, though, President George H.W. Bush re-opened old wounds by remarking that he wanted America to be “a lot more like the Waltons and a lot less like the Simpsons.” That tiff led to the 1996 episode, “Two Bad Neighbors,” where the 41st POTUS and FLOTUS move next door to the Simpsons and George Bush gives Bart a spanking. Since history has a way of repeating itself, don’t be surprised if Pompeo’s animated avatar visits Springfield in the next few years to attend Lisa’s next big speech.
The Simpsons is currently streaming on Disney+.
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