Category Archives: Fail

Mike Pence may have actually been onto something

Mike Pence took a lot of flak for the array of excuses he offered for refusing to wear a mask while touring the Mayo Clinic late last month. One excuse in particular turned Pence into an easy target: “I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to be here, to be able to speak to these researchers, these incredible health care personnel, and look them in the eye and say thank you.”

The excuse doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense at first sight. Alexandra Petri demanded to know, “Sweet God, where are Mike Pence’s eyes?” Stephen Colbert quipped, “You can still look them in the eye with a mask — it’s not a blindfold!” (He also noted, for good measure, “For Mike Pence, looking you in the eye is second base.”) And I’m not even going to repeat what Jon Lovett had to say (starting at 6:08), for any number of reasons.

As you can see, making fun of Mike Pence is easy — but here, we prefer to do things because they are hard. That’s right: I’m about to defend him.

Continue reading Mike Pence may have actually been onto something

Blaming Trump for those calls to poison control isn’t just lazy – it’s wrong

Just over two weeks ago, I wrote about several reporters who rushed to blame Trump’s Bleach Speech for an increase in calls to Poison Control. Specifically, I pointed out that the basis for their claim — an increase in calls over an 18 hour window compared to the same period in 2019 — completely ignored other important differences separating last year from 2020:

Continue reading Blaming Trump for those calls to poison control isn’t just lazy – it’s wrong

Colbert butchers Star Wars twice in one par-segment

Late last week, presumably in anticipation of the upcoming celebration of May the Fourth, Stephen Colbert went to Star Wars twice in just over two minutes (starting at 3:37) — but got some basic ‘facts’ wrong each time.

First, he described NASA’s plan to shine lasers at the moon:

Continue reading Colbert butchers Star Wars twice in one par-segment

Why is the New York Times white-washing Bleachgazi?

It seems reporters at the New York Times were so happy new White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany decided to do her job — by taking their questions for the first time in 417 days — they decided to do it for her. (To channel a well-known New York rapper who frequently name-drops the New York President, you might call what happened a favor for a favor.)

Here’s what happened.

Continue reading Why is the New York Times white-washing Bleachgazi?

Trevor Noah steals Hillary Clinton’s joke, and also her mistake

On April 14, Trevor Noah shared a simple joke about his trust in Trump’s ability to safely reopen the economy — so simple, in fact, that it fits into just three screenshots (with subtitles):

Continue reading Trevor Noah steals Hillary Clinton’s joke, and also her mistake

Reporters need to stop treating 2020 like it’s just another year

You might have noticed that a lot of things are different these days. But how different? One generally accepted way to answer this type of question is to compare what’s happening this year with what’s happened at around the same time in previous years.

That’s what the New York Times is doing when it tries to calculate how many more deaths have happened this year compared to a normal year. People don’t die at a constant rate year-round; death rates are typically higher over the winter. It’s what the Bureau of Labor Statistics does when it seasonally adjusts the unemployment rate to account for more hiring around, for example, the holiday shopping season. In both cases, the establishment of a strong baseline makes it possible to tell how unusual this year really is.

Continue reading Reporters need to stop treating 2020 like it’s just another year

We should have seen Bleachgazi coming

Whatever your opinion on how it happened, it’s clear that the United States failed its coronavirus test.

As of today, this country accounts for more than a quarter of the global death toll, and has suffered more than twice as many deaths as the next runner up. Of course, it might be years before we have a fuller accounting of the final count — if we ever do — but the official score is only likely to get worse.

And while those grim facts certainly suggest somebody screwed up bigly, it doesn’t necessarily settle the question. The trick, if you’re responsible for the process, is convincing people (in certain states) that the result was actually beyond your control. In the case of coronavirus, Donald Trump and his praetorian guard have put forward an argument precisely along these lines — it would have been impossible to prepare much better, because nobody saw this coming:

Continue reading We should have seen Bleachgazi coming

The New York Times left some important context out of its recent Lululemon coverage

Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that “Lululemon Fires Employee Over ‘Bat Fried Rice’ Shirt“. The headline might seem self-explanatory, but the Times had an article to fill and took the time to supply some context.

Here it is, putting the offending t-shirt into the context of a recent rash of racist attacks against people of Asian descent:

Continue reading The New York Times left some important context out of its recent Lululemon coverage

A better way to tell if you’re a goldfish

Donald Trump wants you to think he’s been all over the coronavirus from day one. But when his team put together a video outlining the steps he’s taken to combat it, he famously lashed out at a reporter who had the temerity to ask about how he spent the month of February (which his video had simply skipped for lack of helpful content) while cases ripped through New York and other American cities virtually undetected.

So the next day, Stephen Colbert filled the gap in Trump’s timeline with a significantly less flattering montage bracketed by the following fragment of monologue:

Continue reading A better way to tell if you’re a goldfish