2012 Boney Award Winners: Celebrating True Excellence in Boneheaded Communications

UPDATE:  Why should I have all the fun?  Well, Fay has upbraided me for not throwing this open to your suggestions.  To attone, I am asking you to submit your candidates for a  Boney.  One stipulation:  the candidate had to commit the blunder in 2012 (I recognize that there are already quite a few candidates this year).  So your nominations, please…

My three or four readers may remember that we launched the “Boney Awards” to honor (or is that “dishonor”) excellence in boneheaded communications three years ago.  

As those steadfast readers know, I had originally envisioned a gala event on a grand scale – black tie, the Waldorf Astoria and a star-studded cast of presenters.  Sadly, I found no takers for the sponsorships I planned to offer as part of the package in conjunction with CommPro.  I couldn’t even get commitments for hero sandwiches and beer at the local Knights of Columbus hall.  Undaunted I press on with the announcement of this year’s Boney Award winners which include politicians, editors, movie and TV stars, among others.

“Biting the Hand that Feeds” category:  The winner is Angus T. Jones, star of CBS sitcom, Two and a Half Men.  Mr. Young criticized the show, calling it “filth” and bemoaned his participation in it via a YouTube video which quickly found itself being reported on by the mainstream media.  Shortly after, he issued a rather extensive apology.  Mr. Young earns over $300,000 per week. 

“Who Built It?” category:  President Obama takes the Boney for a remark made during a speech:  “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” In response, the National Federation of Independent Business said the president’s “unfortunate remarks over the weekend show an utter lack of understanding and appreciation for the people who take a huge personal risk and work endless hours to start a business and create jobs.”  

“Some Vacation” category:  It was reported that an American Express mailer was sent out advertising a seven-night cruise touring Italy, France, andSpain for $749.  Great price.  One problem:  the ship was the Costa Concordia, which ran aground off the coast of Italy.  What’s next:  A cruise on the Titanic? 

“Massive Hangover” category:  The fine folks behind Belvedere Vodka take home the Boney for an ad, which appeared on its Facebook page.  The ad shows a distressed woman being groped from behind by a man accompanied by copy which read:  “Unlike Some People, Belvedere Always Goes Down Smoothly.”  Following a backlash, the ad was removed, the company apologized and made a contribution to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. 

“Back on the Chain Gang” category:  We can always count on our Vice President Joe Biden for some wonderful copy and he didn’t disappoint this year and takes home another Boney Award.  At a stump speech inDanville,VA, the Veep told an audience, which included many African Americans, “[Romney] he’s gonna let the big banks again write their own rules — unchain Wall Street. They’re going to put y’all back in chains.”   His accent needed a bit of work. 

“Dress for Success?” category:  The Boney goes to the management of David’s Bridal.  Priscilla of Boston, a designer wedding dress shop owned by David’s Bridal, closed all 19 locations after 65 years and had lots of gowns to dispose of. Rather than donating them to a good cause, store employees were photographed spray-painting expensive gowns and tossing them in the trash so no one could wear them.  Following a backlash, management donated the remaining gowns to various charities. 

“What’s the French Word for Stereotype?” category:  It was reported that fashion writer for French Elle, Nathalie Dolivo, wrote about the Obamas’ style:  “For the first time, the chic has become a plausible option for a community so far pegged to its street wear codes.”  The post appeared in the magazine’s website titled “Black Fashion Power.”

“Do As I Say, Not As I Do”category:  The Boney goes to the fine folks at the General Service Administration, which is responsible for watching the way the government spends our money.  During the year it came to light that the “Western Regions” conference would have made the ancient Romans look like pikers.  The gathering of 300 employees from the agency’s Public Buildings Service was billed as a “Showcase of World-Class Talent” at the luxury M Resort Spa Casino off theLas Vegas strip. VIPs stayed in two-story, 2,400-square-foot loft suites with wet bars and multiple HD televisions. There were after-hours parties, a $7,000 sushi reception, $44-per-head-breakfasts, a $3,200 mind reader and $130,000 spent on pre-conference scouting trips. 

“Tell Us What You Really Think” category:  The Boney goes to former hedge fund manager Vincent McCrudden.  According to The Wall Street Journal,  McCrudden was  accused of posting an “execution list” on a website that included dozens of securities regulator employees and was sentenced to 28 months in prison.  He also offered a bounty of about $327,000 to kill a number of National Futures Association officials. Former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairwoman Mary Schapiro and Commodities Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler were among those on McCrudden’s list, according to Reuters. 

“Recipe for Disaster” category:  While social media has been great for consumer marketers, it also has many pitfalls as the folks at Yum Brands’ KFC unit discovered in winning a Boney.  In Thailand, the fast feeder posted a status update on Facebook after a significant earthquake had rocked the region.  It read:  “Let’s hurry home and follow the earthquake news, and don’t forget to order your favorite KFC menu.”  The status was deleted and an apology issued. 

“I Don’t Even Play One of TV” category:  It is always trouble when people try to demonstrate expertise beyond what they are known for as former Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen , a Boney honoree, discovered.  According to Time Magazine, Guillen said, “I love Fidel Castro.”  He added, “I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that [guy] is still here.” 

“With Brand Ambassadors Like This” category:  Corporate reputations can be ruined by a few idiots or malcontents as Papa John’s discovered.  Please note that Boney goes to the former employee and not Papa John’s for they took corrective action.  According to ABC News, Minhee Cho posted an image of the receipt she received from a Papa John’s restaurant on Twitter, which called her “lady chinky eyes.”  “Hey @ PapaJohns just FYI my name isn’t ‘lady chinky eyes,'” Cho tweeted. The image went viral, and many tweeted complaints to Papa John’s, such as “Your employees are your brand.” Papa John’s apologized, replied to many complaints via Twitter, noting that the employee was being fired. 

“Let Them Eat Cake” category:  Of course, things get taken out of context so our politicos should be careful as to not provide juicy sound bites that will come back to haunt them as Governor Romney, a Boney winner, can readily attest to.  Fresh off an important primary victory, Romney found himself engulfed in controversy after it was reported that the multimillionaire candidate said he’s “not concerned about the very poor.”  He also gets a special mention for his remark about 47% not voting for him and “binders full of women.” 

“Boys Will Be Boys” category:  Hands down (pants down?) the Secret Service takes home the Boney for their shenanigans in Colombia.  Partying at the Pley Club, 11 members of the president’s advance team allegedly bragged “we work for Obama” and “we’re here to protect him.”  The officials spent the night downing expensive whiskey and enlisting the services of the club’s hostesses, if you will.  Several of the men agreed to pay for, and received, services from the “highest category” hostesses.  There were some differences of opinion over the charges.  As an aside:  how would you feel about being protected by a bunch hung over and tired guys? 

“International Style” category:  The Boney goes to the US Olympic Committee.  For the Summer Olympics held in London, Team USA was decked out in uniforms designed by Ralph Lauren, an iconic American fashion designer.  So far, so good, right?  However, the uniforms were made in China. 

“I Play One in the Movies” category:  The Boney goes to actor Mark Wahlberg.  In an interview with Men’s Journal to promote his action film, “Contraband,” he told the reporter that it was his belief that he could have been a a real-life hero on 9/11: “If I was on that plane with my kids, it wouldn’t have went down like it did,” he told the magazine. “There would have been a lot of blood in that first-class cabin and then me saying, ‘OK, we’re going to land somewhere safely, don’t worry.’ ” Yup.  Mr. Wahlberg later apologized. 

“Get Me Rewrite!” category:  Many long-suffering New York Knicks fans will recall the emergence of Jeremy Lin, who now plies his trade with the Houston Rockets.  His name lent itself to word play (e.g., “Lincredible,” “Linsanity” to cite a few).  However, it didn’t stop there.  Following a Knicks loss an ESPN headline read:  “Chink in the Armor.”  Intentional or not, the headline was offensive given Lin’s Asian-American heritage.  The headline went viral and was subsequently removed and an apology issued.  ESPN gets the Boney for this one. 

“Maybe I Should Change My Major” category:  In its commencement program, the University of Texas printed “The Lyndon B. Johnson School of Pubic Affairs.”  Of course, they meant “Public Affairs.”  An apology was issued and the program was reprinted.  The Boney goes to the proofreader.




  1. Robert French on January 2, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    Southern conservative here. That said, I’m also a communicator. I believe the full story is always the best path.

    You do share some very good lessons in your post. One problem with your inclusion of Obama’s “Who Built It?” category is your lack of transparency and full disclosure. Not wishing to turn this into a political issue, let’s stick to just the facts.

    The “that” Obama was referring to was the transportation and communication infrastructure he mentioned just before that sentence (and after) in the speech. Critics cherry picked and mis-informed their audiences. You have repeated that error – even after so much time and analysis has been given to the event. Could he, in a fairly extemporaneous speech, have replaced “that” with “transportation infrastructure”? Yes. Does your failure to share the entire story, despite the clarity that has been shed upon the incident over time, have merit? No. Not in your simplistic description.

    At the risk of irking you, which I do not intend to do, let’s fairly recognize the following. There are those fair-minded people (of any political persuasion) that may say your use of this tired and false / misinterpreted story is the truly boneheaded example.

    • genem on January 2, 2013 at 4:46 pm


      Thank you for reading and commenting.

      Your point-of-view is appreciated.