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Here's what 'Let's Go, Brandon' actually means and how it made its way to Congress

A supporter of former President Donald Trump displays a "Let's Go Brandon" hat before a campaign event for Terry McAuliffe, Democratic gubernatorial candidate for Virginia, in Arlington, Va., on Tuesday. [Bloomberg via Getty Images]
A supporter of former President Donald Trump displays a "Let's Go Brandon" hat before a campaign event for Terry McAuliffe, Democratic gubernatorial candidate for Virginia, in Arlington, Va., on Tuesday.

Updated October 30, 2021 at 9:12 PM ET

If you've heard people chanting "Let's go, Brandon!" or seen someone with a shirt or hat sporting the seemingly-jovial message lately, you might be wondering who Brandon is and why so many people are rooting for him.

In this case, the phrase isn't actually supporting a guy named Brandon. Instead, it's a euphemism that many people in conservative circles are using in place of saying "F*** Joe Biden."

The origins of the meme go back to Oct. 2, when race car driver Brandon Brown won his first NASCAR Xfinity Series race and was being interviewed by NBC reporter Kelli Stavast. In the background, some in the crowd can be heard chanting "F*** Joe Biden," though Stavast says "you can hear the chants from the crowd, 'Let's go, Brandon!' " in her broadcast.

It remains unclear if Stavast misheard what the crowd was saying or if she purposely tried to change the message.

Who's using the chant and meme?

Either way, the phrase "Let's go, Brandon!" quickly spread among conservative groups and continues to be used in place of the direct expletive toward President Biden, even among members of Congress.

On Thursday, Republican Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina was seen sporting a "Let's go, Brandon" face mask. Duncan shared a photo of himself in the mask on Facebook saying, "The American people are furious." Duncan continued his message and expressed frustration with the Biden administration's immigration policies, vaccine mandates and the state of inflation in the U.S.

The week prior, another Republican, Florida Rep. Bill Posey, ended a speech on the House floor in which he talked about frustrations with the Biden administration's agenda and legislation with a "Let's go, Brandon!" and a quick fist pump.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, no stranger to memes, has also added to this discourse when he posted a photo from Game 2 of the World Series with another Houston Astros fan whose sign reads "LET'S GO BRANDON" in big bold letters.

Outside of Congress people are also using the phrase as inspiration for multiple songs.

How this meme got so big

Independent researcher Hampton Stall says the phrase itself is "shareable and adaptable" and can be used in public in "way[s] that cursing out the president cannot."

Speaking with NPR's Weekend Edition, Stall says that in addition to its ability to be shared easily, "Let's go, Brandon!" also got a large boost by alternative right-wing media and figures.

And while it's possible that social media platforms and search engines might ban the more explicit phrase, Stall says the meme version isn't a phrase that can be banned.

"It's not a search term that they were going to limit," Stall says. "And I think that's probably fair. There's a difference between calls for violence and this sort of wink that the 'Let's Go, Brandon' meme is."

How this meme compares to others directed at presidents

"Let's go, Brandon" isn't the first president-related meme to take off, nor is it the first time a president has dealt with vulgar messages.

President Barack Obama was in office as social media's influence began to take hold, enabling the quick spread of racist images and insults online.

The phrase "F*** Trump" was seen often on signs and apparel when former President Donald Trump was in office. And just as that phrase was capitalized on, Stall says he's seeing the same thing now.

"There's a lot of money to be made for people who are seizing the moment and selling," Stall says.

As for whether people will remember this meme in the future, Stall says it has likely reached the point where most people will know what others are saying when they say "Let's go, Brandon," just like many still remember Trump's "covfefe" typo turned meme.

"I think it's sort of past the point where enough people in the mainstream political audience in the United States have heard it that it will be remembered in the future," he says. "It just maybe won't have the same level of staying power [as covfefe]."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.