Obama and Osama – you better know which you mean to say

During the final presidential debate leading up to Election Day, moderator Bob Schieffer fell victim to the unfortunate coincidence that the most powerful man in the free world and the man he killed, who was the USA’s biggest threat, have names differing by only one letter.

“We know that Pakistan has arrested the doctor who helped us catch Obama-uh-bin Laden,” Schieffer said, realizing his slip of the tongue immediately but not correcting himself. It’s a mistake that you never want to make given the dichotomy of what the two men stand for, but he is not the first to make it.

During media coverage of Osama bin Laden’s death in May 2011, many media members made the same mistake. ABC News ran a scroll on its website declaring “Obama Bin Laden Dead.” Diane Sawyer’s blog reported that “OBAMA WILL BE BURIED AT SEA.” Geraldo Rivera said “Obama is dead” on Fox News before correcting himself. And those are just the tip of the iceberg.

The first time I ever heard the error, it was a not an error at all. 30 Rock brilliantly wrote it into an episode while Obama was running for President back in 2008.  The self-absorbed and far from intelligent Jenna Maroney is the victim of the slip of the tongue (or more likely pure stupidity).  Either way, Tina Fey and company were way ahead of the potential for disaster surrounding the two news-makers’ almost identical names. Hearing the mistake made again last night brought me right back to Jenna on Hardball and was just more proof of how great 30 Rock was and continues to be.


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