Dylan Hollingsworth/Bloomberg via Getty Beto O'Rourke
Beto O'Rourke is no stranger to going viral on the campaign trail, fact that's made him one of the most recognizable faces in politics today.
The 50-year-old served three terms in the House of Representatives before narrowly losing a high-profile Senate race in 2018 against Sen. Ted Cruz. Despite the loss, his popularity around the nation skyrocketed, leading him to launch a short-lived presidential bid in 2020. Now, O'Rourke is running for governor of Texas, challenging Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.
From calling out a heckler at a recent town hall to dropping a F-bomb live on television, these are some of O'Rourke's most memorable outbursts and viral moments during his time in the public eye, starting with the most recent and working backward to the day he entered the national conversation.
O'Rourke visits 'Harry's House'
Earlier this month, O'Rourke's attendance at a Harry Styles' show made its way to the internet.
As Styles, 28, paused to give his usual beginning-of-show speech, he revealed a new "Beto for Texas" sticker on his guitar.
In videos captured by fans, the polka dot–wearing singer asks the crowd, "Are you ready?" as the big-screen cuts to a close-up shot of the sticker. The crowd cheers, and Styles shakes the guitar and points to the sticker.
The camera then cuts to a smiling O'Rourke, revealing that he's in attendance, and the crowd gets even louder. Wearing a ball cap honoring Uvalde families, the Texas gubernatorial candidate gives a wave and a peace sign, and Styles responds, "Just a lovely, lovely man."
In addition to enjoying the performance, videos on O'Rourke's Instagram story from his evening at "Harry's House" reveal the politician high-fiving and taking photos with fans in the pit.
O'Rourke addresses heckler during town hall: 'It may be funny to you'
Months after the deadly May 2022 shooting at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school — which killed 19 children and two teachers — O'Rourke did not hesitate to respond when a heckler seemingly mocked his town hall speech for stricter gun laws in Texas.
The incident happened in Mineral Wells, Texas, amid criticism of how Gov. Abbott handled the Uvalde aftermath. After describing the mass murder in chilling detail, a laugh is heard in the audience. "It may be funny to you, motherf-----, but it's not funny to me," O'Rourke told the critic.
Video of the 80-minute town hall was shared to O'Rourke's social media accounts, a clip of his rebuttal later going viral on the web. The crowd in the room seemed to support O'Rourke too, erupting into applause and giving him a standing ovation.
O'Rourke interrupts Gov. Greg Abbott's press conference following Robb Elementary School shooting
The day after the tragedy at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, O'Rourke interrupted a press conference where state politicians were providing updates on the shooting.
O'Rourke walked up to the podium to shout, "You're doing nothing!" to the panel that included Gov. Abbott and Sen. Cruz before being led out of the room by police.
Footage of the press conference shows Abbott beginning to speak when O'Rourke walks up to the officials, points his finger at them and calls them out.
"The time to stop the next shooting is right now and you are doing nothing," O'Rourke told Abbott, per CNN.
"You said this is not predictable," O'Rourke continued of the shooting. "This is totally predictable."
O'Rourke's surprise appearance kicked off a flurry of activity, with several officials on stage, including Cruz, yelling back at the Democrat with profanities and at one point calling him, "pathetic."
As he was being led away, CNN reports that O'Rourke could be heard saying, "This is on you, until you choose to do something different. This will continue to happen. Somebody needs to stand up for the children of this state or they will continue to be killed, just like they were killed in Uvalde yesterday."
O'Rourke hosts 'The Rally Against Fear' in response to Donald Trump
Weeks before O'Rourke bowed out of the 2020 presidential campaign, he hosted a "Rally Against Fear" — a counter rally to one held by then-President Donald Trump just 15 miles away, according to the Dallas Morning News.
O'Rourke said, "We know that in those communities that have hosted a rally by Donald Trump, we've seen hate crimes on the rise more than 200 percent." He said that in El Paso, Texas, where 23 people were shot and killed in August 2019, Trump had hosted a rally the February before.
During Trump's rally, he discussed the "crazy Democrats" running against him for the presidency and called out O'Rourke specifically, accusing him of attempting to get rid of guns and religion, the outlet said.
O'Rourke on assault weapons: 'Hell yes, we are going to take your AR-15'
When asked during one of the democratic debates leading up to the 2020 presidential election, O'Rourke was asked about his previously stated plan to have U.S. citizens sell their AR-15s and AK 47s to the government.
"I am, if it was a weapon that was designed to kill people on a battlefield,"O'Rourke began to the sound of applause. "If the high-impact, high velocity round, when it hits your body, shreds everything inside of your body because it was designed to do that..."
He added, "Hell yes, we are going to take your AR-15, your AK-47, we are not going to allow it to be used against fellow Americans anymore."
O'Rourke slips into Spanish on the debate stage
While answering his first question of the night, about marginal tax rates, O'Rourke began his answer in English before transitioning to Spanish.
The bilingual answer, and Sen. Cory Booker's reaction to it, spurred a slew of internet chatter and jokes.
"When your friend comes back from study abroad," the Twitter account for Full Frontal With Samantha Bee quipped. The Daily Show with Trevor Noah also got in on the fun, tweeting, "When Dad says 'Hola, como estas?' to the waiter at the Mexican restaurant."
His affinity for jumping on counters — and minivans
Particularly during his 2020 presidential campaign, O'Rourke garnered a reputation for climbing onto elevated surfaces. A segment produced by CNN in 2019 shows clips of the Texas politician climbing onto counters at various campaign stops and, in one case, even standing on top of a minivan. The outlet notes that despite his tall stature — he's 6 feet, 4 inches — he can sometimes get lost in the crowd, explaining his propensity to seek higher ground.
Jimmy Fallon pokes fun at O'Rourke's virality
As a nod to O'Rourke's many viral moments, talk-show host and comedian Jimmy Fallon created a series of videos in 2019 he called "Beto Breaks The Internet." Sketches included Fallon impersonating the politician in videos that included ASMR, sharing a workout routine and Snapchatting a teeth cleaning with President Obama — perhaps a wink at O'Rourke's real life teeth-cleaning stream. In one video, Fallon impersonates O'Rourke trying "every TikTok challenge."
"I tried to choose my favorite one or two and give them a shot. Instead, I ended up with my favorite 104," Fallon, as O'Rourke, confesses. "God — they're just all so great, I couldn't choose." In the compilation of clips, the comedian tries a dance, the bottle flip challenge and a "mannequin challenge." In one failed attempt at the ice-bucket challenge, O'Rourke's real-life wife, Amy, makes an appearance in the clip.
'So, I'm here at the dentist...'
— Philip Crowther (@PhilipinDC) January 10, 2019
In 2019, ahead of his presidential campaign announcement, O'Rourke proved that there is never a bad time to get his message out to his supporters — even at the dentist. Live from the dentist chair, O'Rourke shared videos to his Instagram Story interviewing his dental hygienist, Diana, as a continuation of his "series on the people of the border."
Diana talked about growing up in the "Jefferson area" of Texas and particularly the process of her mom studying for citizenship, explaining the support she received from their neighborhood. When asked by O'Rourke what she wants people to know about the border, Diana responded, "It's a beautiful community…" she says before the video, shared to Twitter by Philip Crowther, cuts off.
O'Rourke drops an F-bomb on live TV during his 2018 concession speech
Following his 2018 loss against Sen. Cruz, O'Rourke made an impassioned concession speech to his supporters, thanking them for their work throughout his campaign — and dropping an F-bomb live on television.
"I want to thank this amazing campaign of people — not a dime from a single PAC, all people, all the time, in every single part of Texas," he said to cheers. "All of you, showing the country how you do this."
He continued: "I'm so f------ proud of you guys," prompting the crowd to roar even louder.
America learns about O'Rourke's rock band
In another moment from his 2018 Senate campaign, the Texas GOP tweeted out multiple throwback photos of the El Paso native in an effort to discredit him. Instead, their efforts backfired and actually received positive feedback online.
The photos were shared as retaliation for O'Rourke refusing to debate Cruz, and included a shot of a younger O'Rourke holding a skateboard, a group shot of O'Rourke's former punk rock band, Foss, and a mugshot from his youth.
Maybe Beto can’t debate Ted Cruz because he already had plans... pic.twitter.com/LdqKTh3yK4
— Texas GOP (@TexasGOP) August 28, 2018
According to Vox.com, O'Rourke was arrested twice in his 20s — once accused of jumping a fence at University of Texas's El Paso campus, once on a misdemeanor drunk driving charge. He was never convicted, the outlet reports.
"This makes me like him more," one person wrote on Twitter. "We need elected officials who've lived life, who aren't walking corpses in suits."
Others replied with footage of O'Rourke playing the guitar in 1994, suggesting it made him cooler.
O'Rourke speaks on NFL players kneeling during National Anthem
During his 2018 senate campaign, O'Rourke was asked at a town hall whether he felt like it was "disrespectful" for NFL players to take a knee during the National Anthem. His seemingly ad-libbed response — lengthy, thoughtful and educational — propelled him to political stardom.
"My short answer is: No, I don't think it's disrespectful," he began before clarifying that "reasonable people can disagree on this issue."
He continued: "Peaceful, nonviolent protests, including taking a knee at a football game to point out that Black men, unarmed; Black teenagers, unarmed; and Black children, unarmed; are being killed at a frightening level right now, including by members of law enforcement, without accountability, and without justice."
"And this problem — as grave as it is — is not going to fix itself, and they're frustrated, frankly, with people like me and those in positions of public trust and power, who have been unable to resolve this or bring justice for what has been done and to stop it from continuing to happen in this country," O'Rourke said.
He added: "And so nonviolently, peacefully, while the eyes of this country are watching these games, they take a knee to bring our attention and our focus to this problem to ensure that we fix it. That is why they are doing it. And I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up, or take a knee, for your rights, anytime, anywhere, in any place."