By Randy Cohen
Participants are invited to provide a postelection headline that, in a just universe, would run Wednesday in the media outlet of their choice.
by 5 p.m. ET Monday to e-mail your answer (email@example.com).
Responses to Thursday’s question (No. 133)–“Not Putz”:
“I didn’t say it. I didn’t say it. I was there with a member of my campaign staff. We took copious notes.”
Up for re-election, New York state Attorney General Dennis Vacco incensed a big group of voters with a remark he denies making. What group; what remark?
“Vacco vehemently denies telling a convention of People magazine readers, ‘That Princess Diana was a mean drunk and a lousy lay.’ “–Tim Carvell
“The group: the powerful English teachers’ union. The remark: ‘From now on, I will refer to other people who hold my position as “attorney generals.” ’ “–David Goldberg
“PETA. ‘Who’s fucking this cat?’ “–Tim Rogers
” ‘Let us take a brief moment of silence for the late Ted Hughes,’ to the semiannual convention of Poetesses Who Love Anguished, Theatrical Histrionics (PLATH).”–Noah Meyerson
“Native Americans: ‘Me win, me passum heap big law … bring back St. John’s Redmen.’ ‘I kid … I love the Native Americans. I’m indebted to them … I keep losing at their damn casinos. But seriously …’ “–Alex Balk
Click for more responses.
Is it possible to make a joke about an offensive remark without making an offensive remark? Tricky. Perhaps more than anything else, context counts. Lenny Bruce built a routine around the idea that repeating the word “nigger” over and over and over very, very fast could strip it of its cruel power, reducing it to an impotent sound. But the context was Bruce’s entire life. The risk is falling into the Cops and Firemen in Blackface Defense. When these fellows were caught on tape (a delightfully Dick Clarkish phrase) on an appallingly racist parade float, they pleaded satire. Here the context is the history of the New York Police and Fire departments, organizations traditionally short on anti-racist parodists, and the commissioners of both bodies gave these guys the boot. (This, of course, raises First Amendment questions about odious speech, but that’s another question.) So where does that leave “News Quiz”? Just a little uneasy. But not wallowing in a moral swamp, like those cringing thieves at Time magazine. And that’s a comfort.
The group: Hispanic New Yorkers.
The remark: “You don’t stand outside a bodega and ask the bandito if he would have killed someone if there was a death penalty.”
The context: replying to a question about the ineffable deterrent value of the death penalty.
The denial: Vacco admits to “bodega,” refutes “bandito.”
The source: Rob Goldblum, managing editor of the newspaper Jewish Week.
The other admission: Vacco acknowledged that he was virtually guilty of murdering Buffalo doctor Barnett Slepian, “just as if I’d pulled the trigger myself.”
Correction: No, he didn’t. He takes no responsibility whatever.
His election opponent Eliot Spitzer recalls that when Vacco was a federal prosecutor he was so egregiously lax in protecting abortion clinics that he was removed from a case by a Buffalo judge and replaced with a special prosecutor.
Inductive Reasoning Extra
These names were among the first 100 coughed up by an Infoseek.com search. A search for what?
Storm-drenched New Zealanders
Bill Roley (according to his daughter Aja)
Helpful truck drivers
Residents of Dumwoody, Ga., who support cancer research
Craig Breedlove, auto speed-record holder
Marquis de Lafayette
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