Mitt Romney Calls Jack Nicklaus the "Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century," But It's Not A Gaffe

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 26 2012 1:46 PM

Mitt Romney Calls Jack Nicklaus the "Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century," But It's Not A Gaffe

It's really not! We're at that point in the Romney downward-momentum cycle where every errant phrase becomes surgically examined for gaffitude. But this, uttered in Ohio today, was not a big mistake.

Let's hear it for Jack Nicklaus, the greatest athlete of the 20th century.

The Twitter Track of the news cycle took over. Few people were at or watching the speech itself, so that praise of a golfer -- a golfer! -- rocketed around the Internet. How could this clueless white dork think this way?

Nobody noticed what Romney said next: That Nicklaus had been awarded this honor by Time magazine. Now, that's a mistake, but only because Romney meant to refer to a Time-Warner magazine, Sports Illustrated. In 1999, it ranked Nicklaus as the "greatest male athlete of the 20th century," as seemed fitting for a guy who'd won six Masters.

I feel for the Romney campaign on moments like this. The Nicklaus comment's gone viral in the way they've tried and failed to make far more relevant Obama comments go viral.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 22 2014 8:07 AM Why Haven’t the Philadelphia Eagles Ever Won a Super Bowl?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 8:08 AM Slate Voice: “Why Is So Much Honey Clover Honey?” Mike Vuolo shares the story of your honey.
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 7:47 AM Predicting the Future for the U.S. Government The strange but satisfying work of creating the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends report.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 22 2014 5:30 AM MAVEN Arrives at Mars
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.