This month we have more BIMBO comments from now former Ukrainian President Yanukovych, Dennis Rodman, Democratic Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, the FCC, Piers Morgan, President Obama and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Examples of the Wrong Thing to Say come from the New England NAACP, singer Ted Nugent, NEA Chairman Jason Furman, the Copenhagen Zoo, Michael Dunn who was recently convicted of shooting 17-year-old Jordan Davis and Sen. Marco Rubio. Good examples this month include AB Sugar trying to be the voice of reason and a classy response from Olympic skier Bode Miller. And we have a very funny example of why computer translation programs need adult supervision.
“It’s not embarrassing at all. I would never use that word. The word embarrassing is an insulting word,” said Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning after the team’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl. (This is the winner and a classic BIMBO statement because it’s clear the reporter asked, “Are you embarrassed?” and Manning bit by repeating it back. His response changed the headline and the tenor of the article, which otherwise included some great quotes, like this one from wide receiver Wes Welker: “He had the best year of his whole career at 37.”But we thought Coach John Fox had it right when he was asked if the loss would be a blot on Manning’s career: “I really can’t say it out loud, right here, because I get into trouble. Ludicrous would be proper English.”)
ESPN.com, “Peyton Manning insulted by question,” Feb. 3, 2014
“I am not a reptile,” said New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, responding to what we would call a Freedom of Information Request asking the government to disprove that Key was a “shape shifting reptilian alien.” (The prime minister had a bit of fun with the question, making appointments with both a physician and a veterinarian to get expert opinion confirming his non-reptilian status. Still, the quote made it into the headline and went viral.)
3News, “John Key: ‘I am not a reptile,’” Feb. 12, 2014
“I’m not going to be carried out feet first. I don’t want people to say I stayed too long,” was 87-year-old Rep. John Dingell’s explanation of why he was retiring. (Dingell, D-Mich., is the longest serving lawmaker in Congressional history and inherited the seat from his father, who did get carried out feet first. Dingell was such a partisan questioner that Reagan administration appointees called it “being Dingellized.” Themedia has raised the possibility that Dingell’s wife, a long time lobbyist, will be the next family member in the seat.)
Politico, “John Dingell announces plans to retire,” Feb. 24, 2014
“I don’t plan to leave the country. I don’t plan to resign,” said Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych as protestors amassed in central Kiev. (Oops. Sorry. Too late. Whenever they say that, the handwriting is on the wall. Yanukovych was pushed out by his own party.)
The New York Times, “Ukraine’s leader flees the capital: Elections called,” Feb. 23, 2014
“I’m not an alcoholic,” said former NBA star Dennis Rodman after checking into an alcohol-rehabilitation center. (Although that is the customary purpose for entering such a facility, Rodman insisted he was just trying to “see where I’m at” following an outpouring of criticism on his visits to totalitarian North Korea where he received worldwide media coverage. Given that Rodman insisted that “the people over there are not bad people,” perhaps he needs to check into a reading center so he can read all about how Kim Jong Un starves his people and murdered his uncle. Plus, he insisted that he’s not an alcoholic because he doesn’t drink seven days a week and doesn’t have any DUIs. Note the denial makes it into the headline.)
Associated Press, “Dennis Rodman: ‘Not an alcoholic’” Feb. 15, 2014
“I’m not shading anything,” insisted Democrat candidate for Texas governor Wendy Davis. (The New York Times picked up a story originally published by the Dallas Morning News calling many details of her bio and life narrative into question. For example, she divorced her husband at 21, not 19 and she lived in a trailer for a few months, not years. Most important, she divorced her second husband after graduating from Harvard Law School where he had drawn on his 401(k) for her tuition. Davis claims a man would not have been subjected to such scrutiny, and former New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman, a Republican, agreed. The Times story was fair, but Davis certainly was “shading” the facts.)
New York Times Sunday Magazine, “Can Wendy Davis Have It All?,” Feb. 16, 2014
Saying there was “no intention of regulating political or other speech of journalists or broadcasters,” the FCC first announced it planned a pilot study called “A Multi Market Study of Critical Information Needs” asking journalists and TV station owners in Columbia, S.C. – whom it regulates – about their process for selecting news stories. (The initiative only became public when Ajit Pai, a Republican commissioner, wrote an Op-Ed about it. The Commission’s new, and usually incredibly savvy chairman, Tom Wheeler, quickly cut his losses and said “the survey questions directed toward media outlet managers, news directors and reporters overstepped the bounds of what is required.” While conservatives remain skeptical, Wheeler, as head of the Cellular Telephone Industry Association, showed himself to be a pragmatic and skillful leader. Note how the actual quote was translated in the headline.)
“For the record, I’m not anything-phobic. We’ll, (sic) apart from Madonna-phobic obviously,” tweeted Piers Morgan. (Morgan posted this tweet after his interview with transgender advocate Janet Mock. The tweet seemed to be part of a larger discussion about whether Morgan is opposed to transgender individuals. Morgan’s tweet elicited a number of equally snarky responses, and since CNN announced the cancellation of his show, he’s probably ancient history.)
@piersmorgan, Feb. 4, 2014
“I wouldn’t call it icy,” said President Obama in response to a question from NBC’s Bob Costas about if the president’s absence from the Sochi Winter Olympics was due to a chill in his relationship with President Putin. (This is a classic BIMBO statement: Costas used the word “icy” and President Obama repeated it back. The president also did a 180-degree turn on one of his most memorable 2008 campaign promises, “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” In an interview with Fox’s Bill O’Reilly who read a viewer’s question, “Why do you feel is it necessary to fundamentally transform the nation that has afforded you so much opportunity and success?” The president responded, “I don’t think we need to fundamentally transform the nation,” and O’Reilly reminded him of his 2008 comment. Note the comment makes it into the headline.)
Breitbart, “Obama: ‘I Don’t Think We Need to Fundamentally Transform the Nation,’” Feb. 2, 2014
“For me it was not some massive assault on civil liberties and privacy,” said Director of National Intelligence James Clapper about the secret U.S. program to collect and store enormous amounts of information about American citizens. (Clapper made the comment in an interview where he said that the NSA should have fessed up years before and explained to the American public what it was doing and why. He compared it to knowing that the government keeps lots of fingerprint records and no one is upset about that issue. We agree; if the agency had been more transparent and explanatory, the public would have supported it. This is another example of the importance not just of communication, but of seeking outside points of view.)
The Daily Beast, “Spy Chief: We Should’ve Told You We Track Your Calls,” Feb. 17, 2014
WRONG THING TO SAY
“He was convicted of two misdemeanors. Almost every day people commit misdemeanors. Jaywalking is misdemeanor. Would you have a member expelled from the House for jaywalking?” said Juan Cofield, the New England NAACP president asking Massachusetts state representatives not to vote to expel Rep. Carlos Henriquez. The congressman was convicted of misdemeanor assault charges and sentenced to six months in jail after holding down and punching his girlfriend when she wouldn’t have sex with him. (A Boston Herald columnist and radio host interviewed Cofield and asked if jaywalking was really as serious as beating your girlfriend and Colfield repeated his ridiculous defense. Fortunately, the Massachusetts legislature did the right thing and expelled Henriquez. This kind of absurd double standard gives the venerable civil rights organization a very bad image.)
Boston Herald, “Carlos Henriquez’ crime not ‘jaywalking,’” Feb. 7, 2014
“Well, I don’t think he’s Adolf Hitler,” said singer Ted Nugent when pressed by Dennis Miller about calling President Obama “a subhuman mongrel.” (These insults to the president only hurt conservatives’ cause. They convince independents that conservatives are out of control and they distract from the real disagreement with the president’s policies and ideology. Nugent apologized but the comments will continue to circulate and compete with real messages and information.)
Politico, “Nugent: Obama ‘subhuman mongrel,’” Feb. 24, 2014
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office issued a report finding that the Affordable Care Act will lead to two million fewer workers in the workforce by 2017. The White House sent out Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors Jason Furman, who explained that it was a good thing that two million fewer people would be working because it meant they would have flexibility to take lower paying jobs to qualify for government help. (Even the White House Press Corps had trouble understanding why this was a good thing. Furman also continually referred to the ACA as an “entitlement.” This doesn’t explain or counter the CBO’s clear language that the ACA “will reduce incentives to work” and confirms the bill results in directing people to increasingly depend on government support.)
NJ Daily, “The White House is Still Terrible at Explaining Obamacare,” Feb. 4, 2014
What were they thinking? The Copenhagen Zoo decided to shoot its male giraffe in front of children, dismember him and feed him to the zoo’s big cats. The zoo’s stated purpose was to avoid inbreeding. Maybe that was important, but wasn’t there a less brutal way to dispatch the animal? It will be interesting to see what happens to the zoo’s membership and contributions.
CNN, “No plans to kill 2nd giraffe named Marius, Danish Zoo says,” Feb. 15, 2014
“I’m the f-----g victim here,” said Michael Dunn, who was convicted of shooting unarmed 17-year-old Jordan Davis at a gas station during an altercation over loud music. (The case is disturbing on many levels: that a grown man would resort to a weapon over a stupid topic with a teenager, and that he would talk to his fiancée and father in recorded conversations in jail and describe himself as the victim.)
NY Daily News, “‘Loud Music’ case: Michael Dunn portrayed himself as a ‘f-----g victim’ in Florida shooting death of Jordan Davis,” Feb. 18, 2104
“I’ll tell you why I never answer that question. If I tell you that I haven’t, you won’t believe me. And if I tell you that I did, then kids will look up to me and say, ‘Well, I can smoke marijuana because look how he made it,’” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., explaining why he won’t say whether he smoked marijuana or not. (This response keeps the topic alive and causes everyone, not just media, to think that he did. Given how many politicians in their 40s admit that they tried pot as teenagers, he should just say one way or the other. And, given his background, it’s entirely believable that he didn’t experiment with the substance.)
Time Magazine, “Marco Rubio Won’t Say if He Smoked Pot,” Feb. 10, 2014
Sugar has become the new nicotine as a target of the food police, and AB Sugar is taking a pro-active role in bringing the voice of reason to the controversy, saying on the record, “We have seen that sugar has been singled out as a lead cause of the obesity epidemic and we think this is quite misleading to consumers. If you consume too much of any calories, you will put on weight.” The company’s head of food science pointed out the British Dietetic Association’s position that sugar is harmless in moderation and ABS argued, “The role of sugar in a healthy balanced diet is to provide a range of palatable products.” (As someone who carries around instant oatmeal to keep my caloric intake down while traveling and who always adds a teaspoon of sugar, I commend AB Sugar for trying to engage consumers in a conversation.)
FoodNavigator.com, “‘Misleading’ to single out sugar as a lead cause of obesity, says AB Sugar,” Feb. 10, 2014
Olympian Bode Miller showed himself to be a class act by defending NBC’s Christine Cooper who was way out of line pressing him to talk about his dead brother seconds after he medaled in the men’s super-G ski event. (Cooper asked Miller if he was thinking about his brother’s death, and he responded twice before tears started to run down his cheek and he bowed his head, unable to talk. Cooper’s immature, self-serving questioning triggered a torrent of criticism. Miller came to her defense on Twitter and told NBC’s Matt Lauer, “I’ve known Christine and she is a sweetheart of a person. I know she didn’t mean to push. I don’t think she really anticipated what my reaction was going to be, and I think by the time she sort of realized it, I think it was too late and I don’t really, I don’t blame her at all. I feel terrible that she is taking the heat for that because it really is just a heat of the moment kind of circumstance, and I don’t think there was any harm intended.” Miller saved the day but we disagree with him. We saw the interview, and Cooper clearly meant to wring everything out of Miller she could, recognizing that this was just what television audiences loves.)
The New York Times, “NBC Pushes Too Far in Bringing Bode Miller to Tears,” Feb. 17, 2014
WHY TRANSLATION MATTERS
Oops. Those computer translation programs have some flaws as evidenced by a Beijing hotel brochure translated from Mandarin to English. Here’s the language in its entirety:
“Getting There: Our representative will make you wait at the airport. The bus to the hotel runs along the lake shore. Soon you will feel the pleasure in passing water. You will know that you are getting near the hotel because you will go round the bend. The manager will await you in the entrance. He always tries to have intercourse with all new guests.
The Hotel: This is a family hotel so children are very welcome. We of course are always pleased to accept adultery. Highly skilled nurses are available in the evenings to put down your children. Guests are invited to conjugate in the bar and expose themselves to others. But please note that ladies are not allowed to have babies in the bar. We organize social games, so no guest is ever left alone to play with them self.
The Restaurant: Our menus have been carefully chosen to be ordinary and unexciting. At dinner, our quartet will circulate from table to table and fiddle with you.
Your Room: Every room has excellent facilities for your private parts. In winter, every room is on heat. Each room has a balcony offering views of outstanding obscenity! You will not be disturbed by traffic noise since the road between the hotel and the lake is used only by pederasts.
Bed: Your bed has been made in accordance with local tradition. If you have any other ideas please ring for the chambermaid. Please advantage of her. She will be very pleased to squash your shirts, blouses and underwear. If asked, she will also squeeze your trousers.
Above All: When you leave us at the end of your holiday, you will have no hope. You will struggle to forget it.”
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