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Expand chart
Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Former special counsel Robert Mueller has maintained a constant level of social media momentum in 2019, even outpacing some of the year's most buzzworthy cultural events, according to data from the social media analytics company NewsWhip.

Why it matters: It reveals just how deeply political stories have become enmeshed with traditional cultural discourse — and how the two can often seem indistinguishable.

  • That was highlighted this week by the image of Capitol Hill interns camping out all night for a spot at Mueller's much-anticipated hearings before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees — just like they might for a sold-out concert or, more likely in 2019, a Supreme clothing drop.

Driving the news: Articles about Mueller during the week of his hearings generated nearly 14.3 million social media interactions in the period from just Monday to Friday.

  • That topped the interactions on articles about "Game of Thrones" during the week of its polarizing series finale (10.2 million), as well as articles about "Avengers: Endgame" — now the highest-grossing film of all time — during the week of its release (10.5 million).

The big picture: The buzz surrounding Mueller's hearings was only a fraction of that generated during the week of the release of his report, which saw an eye-popping 30.1 million social media interactions.

  • That outpaced the interactions for some of the year's biggest cultural one-offs, including the Super Bowl (26.8 million) and the Oscars (15.2 million).
  • Topping the Super Bowl is especially impressive, given the breadth of angles that go beyond the outcome of the game itself — everything from viral moments at the halftime show to the business impact of its multimillion-dollar ads to the trailers for the hottest new movies and TV shows.

The state of play: The Mueller trend also underpins why news organizations are willing to spend millions to staff up with knowledgable reporters and hire embeds to follow every candidate in the massive 2020 Democratic field. The political horserace never fails to move the needle — and that means guaranteed revenue.

The bottom line: There's no denying that outrage and opinion is a main driver of social media likes and shares, so it's not surprising that Mueller has staying power.

  • Rather, it's the sheer scale of society's reaction to his investigation that has turned him into an icon — or a pariah, depending on one's point of view — on par with its most popular pastimes.

Go deeper

FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly COVID antibody treatments

A coldbox containing monoclonal antibody treatments at a Regeneron clinic in Pembroke Pines, Florida, in August. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The FDA said Monday it's limiting the use of two monoclonal antibody therapies as COVID-19 treatments because data indicates they're "highly unlikely" to be effective against the dominant Omicron variant.

Driving the news: The FDA revised the authorizations for Regeneron and Eli Lilly "to limit their use to only when the patient is likely to have been infected with or exposed to a variant that is susceptible to these treatments," per a statement from the agency.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to actually deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden calls Fox News reporter a "stupid son of a b---h" on hot mic

President Biden blasted Fox News' Peter Doocy on Monday after the reporter asked if the nation's soaring inflation is a political liability, saying, "what a stupid son of a b----h."

The latest: The president called Doocy Monday evening, the reporter told Fox's Sean Hannity. "He cleared the air and I appreciated it. We had a nice call," Doocy said when asked whether the president apologized, adding: "I don't need anyone to apologize to me."

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