What's Trending

When popularity stakes turn ugly

Gaffes, spats in Miss Universe pageant and US presidential contest dominate online chatter

Comedian and TV host Steve Harvey announced Miss Colombia instead of Miss Philippines as the winner of the Miss
Universe pageant last Sunday. On Christmas Day, he poked fun at himself by tweeting Easter greetings.
Comedian and TV host Steve Harvey announced Miss Colombia instead of Miss Philippines as the winner of the Miss Universe pageant last Sunday. On Christmas Day, he poked fun at himself by tweeting Easter greetings. PHOTO: REUTERS

Christmas week on social media was all about the bad and the beautiful.

Dominating the chatter online was the Miss Universe gaffe committed by American TV host and comedian Steve Harvey.

The live broadcast on Fox last Sunday evening reached a modest 6.2 million viewers. But Harvey's mistake - announcing Miss Colombia as Miss Universe when the winner was actually Miss Philippines - meant that the moment instantly went viral.

The poor man compounded his mistake with an apology on Twitter to "Miss Philippians" and "Miss Columbia", proving that he was probably having the worst work day of any human in the universe.

The Internet, of course, seized the moment. There were the usual memes but two other videos that emerged caught netizens' attention.

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  • STEVENS MRT STATION: The top trending story on The Straits Times Facebook page this week was a story about the new Stevens MRT station on the new Downtown Line 2 which has separate fare gates for its platforms. Readers were upset to find out that if they were to accidentally go to the wrong platform, they would incur a boarding charge of 83 cents.

    The Land Transport Authority quickly responded to say commuters will not have to bear additional charges if they approach station staff for assistance. Read the story at http://str.sg/ZKr7.

    KENYAN MUSLIMS SHIELD CHRISTIANS FROM AL-SHABAAB MILITANTS: A bus in Kenya was sprayed with bullets by Al-Shabaab militants who later boarded the bus and demanded that the Muslims separate themselves from the Christians. The Muslims refused and the militants gave up and left. http://str.sg/ZKr8

    Facebook user Edmund Teo Huai Wei commented: "This is the kind of much-needed narrative which reminds us of what has been happening for thousands of years. Of people helping each other regardless of faith, skin colour or language, even in the face of likely death."

    1 SENGKANG MALL: A little story shot unexpectedly to the top of the viral charts on The Straits Times Facebook page. It reported that Compass Point will be called 1 Sengkang Mall after a competition to rename the mall. http://str.sg/ZKrX

    Facebook user Shanice Chng said: "You don't need a competition to name a mall in Sengkang, Sengkang Mall."

A video posted by online beauty pageant magazine Missosology captured a behind-the-scenes moment after the live broadcast had ended. A group of contestants clustered around Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutierrez to console her. But when Miss Philippines Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach attempted to join the group, one of the contestants told her to step back.

Within a day, the video attracted more than four million views and commentators slammed the ungracious behaviour of the contestants.

Missosology also posted another viral video of a chat with Miss Germany Sarah-Lorraine Riek after the pageant, in which she said bluntly: "I'm not really happy with the result and neither are the other girls." For the full story and videos, go to http://str.sg/ZKrp.

Even Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump leapt into the fray with a tweet. The former owner of the Miss Universe pageant franchise tweeted that "this would never have happened!" if he still owned the franchise.

The only one to have emerged unscathed from the fray appeared to be Ms Gutierrez, who waited almost a week before posting a picture on her Instagram to thank her supporters.

She said: "Your destiny is written for you. And my destiny was this. I was able to bring happiness to my country after becoming Miss Universe for only a couple of minutes."

Her grace under pressure has won over the Internet, first when she gave up her crown on TV and, later, on social media, when she congratulated Miss Philippines by saying: "The happiness that you must be feeling must be incredible."

Her Instagram post has earned more than 152,000 likes and praise from fans.

Grace, however, is not something one would associate with Mr Trump who, once again, put his foot in his mouth by using a vulgar term while verbally attacking Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at a rally in Michigan on Monday night last week.

Referring to the 2008 presidential race, when Mrs Clinton lost the Democratic nomination to Mr Barack Obama, Mr Trump said: "She was favoured to win, and she got schlonged." The word is Yiddish slang for penis.

At the event, he also referred to a televised debate during which Mrs Clinton returned late after a bathroom break. He said: "I know where she went, it's disgusting, I don't want to talk about it. No, it's too disgusting. Don't say it, it's disgusting."

There was an instant outcry in both mainstream media and online. Mr Trump, in defence, tweeted: "When I said that Hillary Clinton got schlonged by Obama, it meant got beaten badly. The media knows this. Often used word in politics!"

But the tweet only earned him derison online, with user John William tweeting succinctly: "@realDonaldTrump You really are an idiot."

Still, Mr Trump appears to be ahead of the game despite his constant gaffes. A poll released last Wednesday showed that he is leading the Republican field with 39 per cent support. The first runner-up is Senator Ted Cruz, with a measly 18 per cent.

The popularity stakes, it seems, can get quite ugly, after all.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 27, 2015, with the headline 'What'sTrending When popularity stakes turn ugly'. Print Edition | Subscribe