Lite column a 'shaka' for Times reporter


POSTED: Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I hate when this happens. I try to be funny, bring a few smiles to a few faces in a weary world and I always end up hurting someone's feelings. In this case, I hurt the feelings of a New York Times reporter who I poked a little fun at in a recent column because she mistook President Barack Obama's shaka sign to the Punahou Marching Band during his inaugural parade as a request to someone in the crowd to “;call me”; instead of the iconic “;howzit, brah”; island greeting.

Now, you would think a reporter for the mighty New York Times would have a thicker skin than to be offended by what a little humor columnist in Hawaii says about her. But Katherine “;Kit”; Seelye apparently is the sensitive type.

“;I appreciate that you wrote you were 'just kidding' ... But it is clear from the e-mails I received that many of your readers did not understand that your references to me, including the supposed quotation, were fabricated,”; she wrote to me in an e-mail. She is so upset that she's also asking this paper to run a letter-to-the editor from her on the matter.

  First, the charge that I fabricated quotes really hurts. I don't fabricate, I make up stuff. I invent, concoct and create quotes, purely for the sake of humor and entertainment. I doubt any of “;my readers,”; as Kit describes them, mistook anything in that column for anything other than a joke. But just to be fair, I'll abide by Kit's request that I “;clarify the situation.”; I would like to make it clear that at no time did Ms. Seelye actually suggest that:

» Obama made a sign to members of the Harvard Skull & Bones secret society to meet up later and plan to take over the world.

» Obama was “;signing”; to a deaf tuba player in the marching band.

» Obama's shaka sign was actually a hand cramp caused by a vitamin deficiency.

And to clear up any other confusion that I may have caused regarding previous presidential inaugurals, I confess now that:

» Grover Cleveland DID NOT give his general election opponent the “;one-fingered salute.”;

» James Garfield DID NOT pump his hand in the air at his swearing in and shout, “;Woo! Woo! Woo! Yeah, Baby!”;

» William McKinley DID NOT yell “;Rock on, sisters!”; to Carrie Nation and the hatchet-wielding Women's Christian Temperance Marching Band and Saloon Wrecking Crew.

» Franklin Pierce DID NOT “;wave his hand like a girl”; at the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court and call him a “;knucklehead.”;

I feel bad for any readers who mistook those “;fabrications”; of mine as actual history. (And I feel worse for their history teachers.)

But I'm a little worried about those people who e-mailed Ms. Seelye believing she would say in her New York Times blog that Obama was making secret signs to his Skull & Bones buddies to meet to take over the world or that his hand was cramped by a vitamin deficiency. Or any of the foolishness about the past presidents. I suspect it says more about Ms. Seelye's credibility and her readers than mine.