Viewers distracted as fly lands on Mike Pence’s head during vice-presidential debate

The vice presidential debate had some dramatic moments but an unlikely star took centre stage when it landed on vice president Mike Pence's head.

A fly successfully dodged the plexiglass barriers in place to prevent coronavirus spread, and settled on Mr Pence's head for well over a minute.

It went unnoticed as Mr Pence and Senator Kamala Harris continued to exchange blows during Wednesday's debate.

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The fly was unmentioned onstage, with the pair continuing to focus on the discussion of systemic racism in the justice system.

But as the insect took up residence on Mr Pence’s white hair, the social media firestorm was immediate. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow tweeted: "That’s not on your TV. It’s on his head."

Others joked about the creature perhaps getting stuck in hair spray – or possibly now being a prime candidate for coronavirus testing after an outbreak of the virus at the White House.

Screens separate the candidates and the moderator after the Covid outbreak at the White House. Credit: AP

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden immediately got in on the act, tweeting a photo of himself clutching an orange flyswatter under the heading: "Pitch in $5 to help this campaign fly".

Moments later, he tweeted again, this time highlighting, which took users to a website set up for his campaign to help supporters make plans to vote.

Mr Pence had spent much of the night shaking his head in response to Ms Harris' answers but the vice president did not appear to notice the fly’s arrival.

With no intervention from Mr Pence, the fly eventually lost interest and flew away on its own after more than a minute sitting on his head.

Wednesday night’s visitor was not the first fly to take centre stage at a presidential debate.

In 2016, one briefly landed between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s eyes during a town hall-style debate with now-President Donald Trump.

While President Barack Obama stopped speaking to swat a buzzing fly during an interview in 2009, telling it to “get out of here”.

As interviewer John Harwood quipped “That’s the most persistent fly I’ve ever seen,” Mr Obama concentrated on its path and swatted it dead.