I am fortunate to be in a profession in which errors don’t normally result in the loss of human life. Typos and grammatical mistakes may cause a little embarrassment, and could, if printed, cost the client some money and a smidgen of credibility; at worst, a missed marketing opportunity, but no one is dying on the table. No one bleeds out from a misplaced comma. (A colon, maybe.) No one will perish in a plane crash because my subject and verb do not agree.
These are extreme examples, I realize, but mistakes in other professions can also have lasting repercussions. Ask Mark McGwire. Or BP.
If you’re a politician, however, beware the open mike or the flippant tweet, because the media, and your opposition, have long memories. Whether Sarah Palin meant to write “refudiate” in her now-famous Twitter post or simply chose the wrong word, the results are now engraved in pop culture history: “refudiate” made the top three in several “best words of 2010” lists.
Here are more of my favorite political gaffes of 2010:
1. “I am not a witch.” Copping a famous line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Christine O’Donnell, in a scripted, intentional, but misguided political ad, tried to assure potential voters in Delaware she no longer “dabbled in witchcraft” and would not turn them into newts. Instead, Delaware turned her into an unemployed marketing consultant.
2. “Our North Korean allies…” Oops. Sarah Palin, probably tired from counting the advance she made on her second book deal, misspoke and made the Huffington Post orgasmic for a while at her seeming lack of current events and geographical knowledge. I think they were too hard on her, since she obviously meant to say, “our Al-Qaeda allies.”
3. “This is a big f***ing deal.” Joe Biden is always good for a laugh. This expletive, about the passage of the healthcare reform bill, came when he leaned into President Obama’s ear near a microphone he didn’t know was open. This slip of the lip has legs, though. And a limited edition, fund-raising t-shirt, courtesy of the same brilliant organization behind Obama’s presidential campaign.
4. Carl Paladino. Take your pick from any of his greatest (baseball bat) hits. Every time he opened his mouth it was anybody’s guess what would come out.
5. “Some of you look a little more Asian to me.” Sharron Angle, responding to a group of Latino students about one in her series of racially offensive ads, tried to prove her color-blindness, and failed miserably. And lost the race to another of our favorite gaffe-makers, Harry Reid.
6. What’s with Barbara Boxer’s hair? Has the Feminist Movement taught us nothing? Carly Fiorina, while waiting to be interviewed during her race against incumbent senator Barbara Boxer, “forgot” her mike was on and said, “Saw Barbara Boxer briefly on television this morning and said what everyone says, God what is that hair?” Dear, oh, dear. Haven’t we learned our lessons from folks who’ve dumped on Hilary’s pantsuits? And why do women do this to each other? You’d think as a CEO Fiorina would be a tad more savvy.
7. “This is Reagan country, and perhaps it was destiny that the man who went to California’s Eureka College would become so woven within and interlinked to the Golden State.” So sayeth Sarah Palin. Except Eureka’s in Illinois, and Reagan didn’t move to California until five years after he graduated. Oops.
8. “The Hottest Member.” During a fundraiser hosted by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Senator Harry Reid referred to New York’s junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, as “our hottest member.” She was sitting only a few feet away at the time. One of Reid’s spokes-bots later clarified, “What can I say, she made The Hill’s ‘Most Beautiful’ list. Of course he also went on to praise her skill and tenacity and described her as an effective member of the New York delegation as well.” Of course.
9. Don’t mess with Red Sox Nation. Remember Martha Coakley? She ran against Scott Brown for Ted Kennedy’s seat? She dissed former Sox pitching phenom Curt Schilling by calling him a Yankees fan and the home crowd by sneering at the horrific idea that she should have human contact with the electorate, “..standing outside Fenway Park? In the cold? Shaking hands?” Nah, we don’t remember her either.
Anyone I’ve forgotten? What were your favorite hot mike and brain freeze moments from the past year?
I tend to cringe more when politicos say what they actually intend to say than when an f-bomb accidentally falls out of their mouths or when they call someone hot (truly, there are worse things someone can call a woman). Speaking of which, didn’t Jerry Brown call Meg Whitman a whore this year?
Oh, damn, forgot about that one…