This story is part of, CNET’s coverage of the run-up to voting in November.
President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden held competing town hall events Thursday night, but the star of the show may have been … neither candidate. Social media mostly focused on a mysterious woman in the Trump audience who frequently and emphatically nodded her head as the president spoke.
Neither Trump nor Savannah Guthrie, who moderated the Trump town hall, addressed the woman’s presence during the event itself, but the online commentary flew, and the Miami Herald later identified her as Mayra Joli, an immigration attorney and pro-Trump activist who ran for Congress in 2018.
Joli, who wore a red face mask during the broadcast, earned the nickname “Nodding Lady” from many viewers — and even has her own Twitter parody account now. Joli shared a video of herself speaking to the president on her Facebook page after the town hall. “We have your back! You see, you see, you are the best,” she’s heard saying.
Before being identified, Joli earned comparison with other viral scene-stealers, including theduring his debate with Sen. Kamala Harris and “Left Shark” from the 2015 Super Bowl halftime show. “Nodding Lady is the Left Shark of 2020,” one Twitter user wrote.
Journalist Katie Couric and comedian Sarah Cooper were among those who commented on Joli’s frequent nods. “I’m channel surfing,” Couric tweeted. “The woman to @realDonaldTrump‘s right keeps nodding her head, which I find very distracting.”
The Herald wrote a lively feature story about Joli in 2017, describing her as “a Brickell-based immigration attorney and five-time beauty queen who dabbles as a pundit on Spanish-language television.” She was a lifelong Democrat who ran with no party affiliation, the story reported.
In that article, Joli called herself the “master of selfies,” adding “I take pictures with everyone.” The newspaper called her an “ardent” Trump supporter, and she compared herself to the president, saying that like Trump, she was not running for money or for fame, and that like him, she did not drink alcohol. She lost her election to Democrat Donna Shalala, earning just 2.5% of the vote in Florida’s 27th Congressional District.
Before Joli was identified, many viewers wanted to know her story, while others thought she should be left alone.
The fly that sat on the vice president’s heada few days later. Will Joli make it into an SNL sketch? “Nodding Lady will be on SNL this week … and probably a Halloween costume next week,” wrote one Twitter user.
Although the dueling town halls replaced a second presidential debate, stay tuned. Trump and Biden are expected to debate one more time, on Oct. 22.