In a spat over coverage of the relaxation of the US Senate dress code, the Pennsylvania Democrat John Fetterman, who will now be allowed to wear his signature hoodies and shorts in the chamber, told the data analyst Nate Silver: “I dress like you predict.”
Silver, who rose to fame to run the polling site FiveThirtyEight.com but whose predictions for recent elections have proved controversial, had tweeted: “Starting a new political party for people who don’t give a shit either about how John Fetterman dresses or what Lauren Boebert does in a theatre.”
Boebert, a far-right House Republican from Colorado, has been ensnared in scandal over her ejection from a Denver theatre earlier this month, for behaviour during the Beetlejuice musical including taking selfies, vaping and groping her date.
Silver took Fetterman’s response in good humor, saying of his notional new party, “100% of our members so far think Fetterman is kind of inherently funny and the Boebert story is hilarious.”
The relaxation of the Senate dress code, which previously required formal wear for business in the chamber, was instituted by Chuck Schumer, the Democratic majority leader.
The New Yorker said he would still wear a suit but the move prompted criticism among Republicans and right-leaning media.
Republican senators were mostly restrained in their criticism – Joni Ernst of Iowa said “I don’t like it; I think we’ve got to maintain a level of decorum” – but as Fox News pundits weighed in, so did prominent rightwingers including Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor who is campaigning for the presidential nomination.
Speaking in Jacksonville, DeSantis said: “The US Senate just eliminated its dress code because you got this guy from Pennsylvania who’s got a lot of problems ... he wears, like, sweatshirts and hoodies and shorts ... We need to be lifting up our standards in this country, not dumbing down.”
Referring to DeSantis’s flatlining challenge to Donald Trump, Fetterman responded: “I dress like he campaigns.”
From the US House, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia – a fierce competitor to Boebert for the crown of most infamous Republican – called Schumer’s decision “disgraceful”.
“Dress code is one of society’s standards that set etiquette and respect for our institutions,” said the far-right conspiracy theorist, who has loudly heckled the president during State of the Union addresses, once while dressed as a balloon.
Adding, “Stop lowering the bar!” Greene claimed Schumer was acting to “appease” Fetterman.
The Democrat, 54, does present an unusual appearance on Capitol Hill: a moustachioed former mayor of Braddock, in Pennsylvania steel country, he stands 6ft 8in (203cm) in his socks and often walks the corridors of power in shorts, short-sleeved shirts and hoodies.
In response to Greene, Fetterman pointed to her behaviour in a recent hearing on Republican allegations concerning Hunter Biden, when she displayed explicit pictures.
“Thankfully,” Fetterman said, “the nation’s lower chamber lives by a higher code of conduct: displaying ding-a-ling pics in public hearings.”
Fetterman also retweeted a message from Tina Smith, a Democratic colleague.
Pointing to the looming 30 September deadline for Congress to avoid a government shutdown, the Minnesota senator wrote: “Seriously? You’re bitching about Senate dress code when House Republicans are about to drive the federal government off a cliff? Again? Talk about disgraceful.”