- Former Florida governor Jeb Bush had a Twitter feud with Room Rater, a profile that judges on-camera interiors, accusing it of being a “hyper partisan” gimmick.
- Bush, who later said his comments were not serious, became the latest high-profile conservative to accuse Twitter and its users of leaning liberal.
- President Donald Trump has joined a chorus of conservative voices raising concern about Twitter.
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Former Florida governor Jeb Bush this week traded barbs with a semi-well-known Twitter handle that uses TV screenshots to rate pundits’ room decor, a lighthearted scuffle that nonetheless placed Bush in company with a conservative outcry over partisan divisiveness on Twitter.
“Are you a room rater or a hyper partisan person that is the problem? We need less hyper partisanship on backgrounds at this time for our country,” the former presidential hopeful wrote.
—Jeb Bush (@JebBush) November 21, 2020
After his initial jab, Bush quieted down for a few days, leaving some to speculate whether he had been serious in his criticism. On Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough said it was obvious Bush was joking. Scarborough said he knew Bush well enough to know he has a very dry sense of humor. Late in the week, after a few days of speculation, Bush said on Twitter, “It was a joke.”
—Room Rater (@ratemyskyperoom) November 25, 2020
Bush may have been joking about Twitter’s problems, but others aren’t. Some conservatives have long accused the site of promoting liberal trends over conservative ones, a view that has accelerated since the presidential election. In the last two weeks, some prominent Republicans and conservatives have rallied their followers to leave Twitter in favor of Parler, a competitor that touts itself as a place for unrestrained free speech.
President Donald Trump also chimed in last week, seeking to put an end to Section 230 of the Communications Act, which allows Twitter, Facebook, and other social media companies to regulate content on their platforms as they see fit.
—Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 27, 2020
While Trump’s complaint was with trending hashtags – including #DiaperDon – that he said were biased, Bush aimed his comments at a single account, Room Rater, which used the Twitter handle @ratemyskyperoom. It’s a tongue-in-cheek account that’s been commenting on the bookshelves, wall art, and lighting in TV pundits’ home offices during the pandemic.
As TV news shifted from glossy studios to home offices – or worse – this year, Room Rater became an escape for many, racking up more than 350,000 followers. It’s run by Jessie Bahrey and Claude Taylor, who this week told The Washington Post: “We have top 10s and strong 9s from people of all socioeconomic backgrounds.
Most days, Room Rater will post a screenshot of a correspondent or other news guest, saying something like “Love solid wall colors. Nice art. Great frame. Add one more element.” Then it’ll add a rating, like “8/10” for Politico’s Meridith McGraw.
Bush argued that Room Rater was “hyper partisan” in its ratings, essentially giving higher scores to those seen as being more liberal. The Tweet that set Bush off was about a CNN correspondent’s room. It said: “Love the port wine posters. Sunflowers. Depth. Add pillow to left. 9/10.”
To be sure, a least a few conservatives have gotten low ratings, like former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent, who landed at 3/10. Republican Senator Rand Paul received 0/10, while conservative columnist George F. Will had 1/10. “Awful. Is he under arrest?” said Room Rater.
—Room Rater (@ratemyskyperoom) October 31, 2020
But it seems liberals earned harsh ratings just as often. That included Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, a Democrat, who received 1/10. Room Rater said Fetterman’s room looked like a hostage situation.
Throughout the week, Twitter users prodded Bush about his stance on Room Rater. By Thursday, he had cooled down, saying: “It was a joke.”
He added: “Yes I oppose hyper partisanship and yes I try not to take myself seriously. I am truly sorry I got you all riled up about something [as inconsequential] as the backgrounds of videos.”