Brow Beat

What Is the Dumbest News Story of 2011?

Noted healthy-eating advocate and First Lady Michelle Obama eats a cookie at the White House.

Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

Yesterday, a Slate staffer sent a note around the office with this subject line: The Dumbest News Story of the Year: Sidwell Friends Serves Japanese Food on Pearl Harbor Day. The fact that Malia and Sasha Obama were served teriyaki chicken and edamame on the 70th anniversary of Japan’s infamous surprise attack on U.S. soil did strike us as a serious contender for the silliest news item to be reported in the past year. So we put it to our Facebook and Twitter followers to nominate their picks for the dumbest news story of 2011, using the hashtag #DumbNews2011, to see if they could top it. Here are a few of their suggestions.

Back in May, England’s Daily Mail reported on a sibling trend to Vajazzling (“the decoration of the female nether regions with Swarovski crystals”) called Pejazzling. (Courtesy of

Last month The New York Times talked to Mitt Romney’s barber and uncovered this gem: “I don’t put any product in there.” (Courtesy of @jrdelara.)

People Magazine is not exactly a fount of serious stories, but this tabloid headline from back in July seemed dumber than usual: “Kate Wears the Same Jeans—Three Times!” (Courtesy of Facebook fan Amy Pagoda.)

As you might expect, there was a lot of focus on Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, and almost anything produced by Fox News. Some of the stories were more egregiously idiotic than others, though. Facebook fan Isaac Levey had this wonderful little rundown of Fox News’ dumbest hits of the year:

Fox News being upset about President Obama “failing” to mention God in his Thanksgiving address.

Fox News being upset about President Obama using a binder clip of some kind when he announced his jobs bill.

Fox News being upset about President Obama inviting Common to the White House.

Fox News being upset about President Obama being President.

Twitter followers @Jim_Dunedin and @PhilKinzler pointed out that, along with Fox News stories, there should probably also be a separate category for dumb stories about Michelle Obama doing things.

First, there was the July report that the First Child-Nutrition Advocate ordered a cheeseburger at a burger chain. At the time, The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates called it “the dumbest story ever written in all of human history.”

Then there was September’s AP story “Michelle Obama Goes to Target,” which actually resulted in a whole series of dumb speculative follow-up pieces about whether or not the dumb story was planted by the White House.

While our readers seemed to hit on the big, dumb political and penis-decorating stories of the year, there are plenty of small, dumb, local news stories that we must have missed. Please leave your nominations in the comments below or on Twitter under the hashtag #DumbNews2011. Perhaps if we highlight the dumbest news stories of 2011, we won’t see the same kinds of stories reported in 2012.

Okay, probably we will. Even so, I look forward to your suggestions.