Newt Gingrich wasn’t happy. It was the night of the 12th 6 minutes before the US Senate race in Georgia was called for Raphael Warnock, and over on the Fox News show “Hannity,” the finger pointing at Herschel Walker’s impending loss had begun. One main culprit: TikTok.
tick tock? The Chinese-owned social media platform, which didn’t even exist when Donald J. Trump began his presidency, should be banned “for reasons of national security,” Mr. Gingrich said. “But as long as it’s legal,” he continued, “we have to learn to compete in a place like this because that’s where Gen Z gets such a high percentage of their information.”
“We have to learn to be competitive in that,” he added.
That’s one – and probably the only – point on which Mr. Gingrich and Annie Wu Henry would agree.
At 26, Mrs. Henry is – or @Annie_Wu_22 as she’s known Twitter, Instagram and TikTok – has been in the campaign of Senator-elect John Fetterman against Dr. Mehmet Oz in the run for US Senate in Pennsylvania when he found Mr. Fetterman’s TikTok account.
“John already had this amazing communications team working for him, and he himself was a Twitter guy for years,” Ms. Henry said on a video call from her home in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia. She wore sweatpants and a hoodie (“very on-brand today,” she said, laughing). “But we were able to take his voice and his message to other platforms,” she said.
And those other platforms are even “more important than it normally would have been,” Ms. Henry said, because Mr. Fetterman couldn’t be on the trail after his stroke in May.
Woman. Henry became her “TikTok Queen,” according to Mr. Fetterman’s communications director, Joe Calvello. The account has gained more than 240,000 followers in three months, with three million likes and tens of millions of views. Woman. Henry’s was able to take the fun serious and the serious fun; and her motto – in life and on TikTok – is “embrace the terror”. That is, let the world see you as your messy, authentic self.
“Young People Trust”
Of course, you must have a candidate willing to let you do this. “John’s not an Instagram guy” — polished, carefully curated — “nor would it be him to make him dance on TikTok,” she said. “But if we can use a weird, quirky sound and edit our messages to be a little, well, not messy but not super sophisticated, that fits with who he is, who this campaign is.”
Some of her hits: the video of Dr. Oz brags about growing up “south of Philadelphia,” followed by a map showing that across the water is…New Jersey, overlaid with Smash Mouth’s “All Star” (“Somebody once said me the world is going to roll me/ I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed”).
Another one of hers more cutting examples: a trippy TikTok duet by the heavy metal dolls in Psychostick’s “Numbers (I Can Only Count to Four)” with Dr. Oz can’t count the number of houses he owns.
While not created Mr. Fetterman’s answer two dr She had an aha moment fundraising in Oz’s infamous Crudités video, in which he complains about the price of “Crudités” and merges Philly grocery stores Wegmans and Redner’s. For every donation over $5, donors will receive a sticker that reads, “Wegners: Let Them Eat Crudité.” The money rolled in very quickly.
“Annie is like this generational force,” said a young politician named Memes. He runs a Twitter account called @organizer meme, an aggregator of smart political imagery and text that also serves as a place for stressed junior executives to vent without being outed to their bosses. (Memes is 25, works in politics, and wants to keep his job, hence the anonymity.)
He considers Mrs. Henry a close friend, although it was not their first virtual meeting in Georgia, when Ms. Henry made the last-minute decision to fly to Georgia and help end the Asian vote for Senator Warnock during the to achieve a runoff.
“Young people are often not trusted to do things in campaigns,” Memes said. “Annie is what happens when you trust young people to do what they are good at.”
“She’ll Get What She Wants”
Woman. Henry grew up in a rural, deeply conservative town in York County, Pennsylvania, the only child of Tom and Beth Henry, both special education teachers. She was adopted in China when she was 13 months old.
When their new daughter was handed over to her exhausted and delighted parents, Mr Henry said the nurse told them: “This one is very proud, she’s going to get what she wants in life.”
From an early age, her parents said, her head would explode at injustice. Here, liberal but devout Methodist parents despaired when they could not get their daughter to go to church with them after she learned what gay marriage was and that her church would not allow it.
“I think because she was adopted in China and we had very few other ethnic races in our town, maybe she felt like an outsider herself,” her father said. “Sometimes she was attacked. But when she saw someone else being teased, she was furious.”
She got her first smartphone in high school and tweeted about the 2012 election before she could vote. Four years ago, she led the Black Lives Matter protests in her predominantly white hometown.
And it was her father who told her first about Mr. Fettermann. “When he was mayor of Braddock I admired him for really helping people who were down and standing up for the common person,” Mr Heinrich said. “When he announced he was considering running for the Senate, I said to Annie, ‘That’s a man to think about. This is someone you can support.”
She graduated from Lehigh University in 2018 – her thesis was on the intersection of identity and social media – and then worked a variety of jobs: organizing for a few local politicians in Philadelphia and social media for a bridal company to help the to pay bills.
At the onset of the pandemic, she wrote an essay that drew attention to coming to terms with her ethnicity for the first time and, really, as an Asian American in a country where the president dubbed Covid-19 “the China flu.” to feel anxious. When wearing a mask in public, she reminded herself to “look friendly” and not to sneeze or cough.
Last year, she made her first viral tweet with a friend: a “Stop Asian Hate” meme that garnered millions of views, helped by reposts from celebrities like Chrissy Teigen and Ellen Pompeo.
Sophie Ota, Mr. Fetterman’s Digital Director, hired here at the end of July. The next few months, Mrs. Henry said, were blurry. There were no days off. There wasn’t time to see what pundits were saying about the predicted “red wave,” and Ms. Henry and other staffers were busily tuning out the news.
Woman. Henry was also one of the few people in the campaign to have a car, which meant she drove colleagues from one part of the state to the other, putting in about 1,000 miles a week. the joke was that she knew the Pennsylvania Turnpike by heart and knew the best rest stops and cafes. (At one point, the compliance officer who reviews employee spending looked at how many lattes she was buying and wanted to know who she was buying coffee for each day. They were just for her.)
While she and Mr. Fetterman were often in different locations, she would show up early at events so she could take and post photos of the crowds, the lines, and the people. Most of the events had a tracker: a guy from the Oz team overseeing what was happening.
“It’s really common,” said Ms. Henry said, “but this guy was there mainly to see if he could record John screwing up words so they could poke fun at John’s health. He also took in John’s children. There are ways to do this where you are a notice rude and disrespectful.” Woman. Henry had a final word of contempt: “And he used a Camcorder.“
Ms. Henry has quite a high online profile aside from her Fetterman connection. Her personal Instagram account (which has more than 80,000 followers) alternates offering information on how to take action against racism and protecting abortion rights, with selfies with rallying friends such as Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker or actress Kerry Washington .
And Mrs. Henry isn’t shy about supporting low-paying political work with a sideline or two. She has not only partnered with non-profit organizations that promote reproductive rights or protect democracy, but also occasionally with manufacturers of skin creams or vibrators.
Political nudges and pop culture references—”just little references to people I look up to—fill her apartment. Her doormat reads: “In this House we understand that basic human rights are not political matters and that science is a matter of fact, not opinion. Warm welcome.”
Taylor Swift merchandise is strewn everywhere, and autographed copies of books by Jimmy Carter and Gloria Steinem lie on the coffee table. A tote bag hangs next to her door that reads, “Friends Don’t Let Friends Miss Elections.”
She’s trying to catch up with her real life after the confusion of the past few months — answering emails, paying a speeding ticket and, perhaps most importantly, snagging tickets to Taylor Swift’s upcoming concert. (She and Mr. Fetterman’s wife, Giselle, “textually connected,” she said, about Taylor Swift.) She’s single and unemployed, but like many of her peers, don’t panic.
“I don’t know how that’s going to play out, and I don’t really want to know,” she said. “I don’t think I’ll have that one big dream job forever.” She said she doesn’t think she wants to work on the Hill, although a recent Instagram post shows her looking like Jackie O and in mysterious ways Wise visited the White House.
And she’s enjoying that first taste of fame. She said she was walking down the street recently and a man rolled down his window and yelled, “Are you Annie?” “I said yes, but kind of surprised/confused,” she texted me. Then he shouted, “Thank you for everything you’ve done,” and sped away.