Mistakes, Maybe -- But No Lies


February 21, 1993|By DAVE BARRY

As the more than 34 billion regular readers of this column are well-aware, I pride myself on my accuracy. I do not report idle speculation or gossip. Let's say I happen to hear a rumor that Vice President Gore likes to relax by putting live spotted owls through a Salad Shooter. I am not going to just haul off and write a statement like that in the newspaper. I am going to follow the procedure used by top journalists, which is to write: "Vice President Gore reportedly likes to put live spotted owls through a Salad Shooter."

The point is, I have high journalistic standards; that is why today I am so upset that I am tempted to commit suicide by drinking vending-machine coffee. It turns out that some of my recent columns contained factual errors. Yes. These errors were spotted by vigilant readers who took time out from their busy schedules to write letters, and so I want to "set the record straight" on certain matters.

1. Montana is not north of Canada.

Actually, I never said that Montana is definitely north of Canada. What I said, in a column about a trip to Montana, is that it is "possibly" north of Canada. This resulted in a stern letter from reader Lena Anderson, who states: "You must be one of the uneducated young that never cracked a geography."

She sent me two maps of the United States, and I am embarrassed to say that they clearly show that Montana is not north of Canada at all. It is north of Iceland.

2. Military food tastes good.

You may recall the column I wrote after my wife and son and dogs and I conducted a taste test involving the Meal Ready to Eat (MRE), a U.S. Army tactical food concept. Our conclusion was that the MRE was the ideal food for certain military situations, mostly involving captured enemy spies ("Perhaps you would like some of this beef stew?" "No! I'll talk!"). But you wouldn't want to feed it to anybody on your own side.

Apparently this column aroused the dander of Capt. Bryan Dion, who is in charge of Army recruiting in southern Oregon. Captain Dion contacted his local newspaper, the Eugene, Ore., Register-Guard, which conducted a taste test of its own with a six-person Taste Panel. The panelists consumed a variety of MREs; then, using a 10-point rating scale, they all died.

No! Seriously, the panel gave the MREs a rating of 8.1 on the taste scale. This is clearly a scientific result, because it contains a decimal point. So I am forced to conclude that I, along with several hundred thousand military personnel, have been mistaken about MREs: They taste wonderful, and if the Army happens to have a few extra tons of these culinary treats stacked up in warehouses, it should deliver them, perhaps via large Air Force bombers, to Oregon, which is just north of Montana.

3. The League of Women Voters does not endorse bull scrotums.

My annual Holiday Gift Guide for 1992 included, among other gift suggestions, a genuine bull scrotum, which looks sort of like a hairy handbag and is sold by Goode Company Barbeque in Houston. The Gift Guide included the following statement: "Don't be fooled by cheap imitations. This is the only bull scrotum endorsed by the League of Women Voters and the Rev. Pat Robertson."

This is inaccurate. I have here a letter from reader Howard J.

Smith, who writes: "Both my wife and I are proud members of the LWV and resent your using its name. Bluntly, I find your remarks to be denigrating, uncalled for and insulting. Further, by tacitly associating the LWV with Pat Robertson, you have added guilt-by-association to your offenses."

So, for the record: The League of Women voters does not endorse bull scrotums or engage in any other activity that would detract from its mission, which is the worldwide distribution of Amway products.

In conclusion, let me express my gratitude to the readers who pointed these errors out, and I invite any other reader who finds an error in my columns to please contact me: David Broder, c/o The New York Times, 12345 12345th St., Washington, D.C. 12345. Thank you, and your fly is down.

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