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Obama's Supposedly 'Famous' '57 States' Gaffe Went Virtually Unmentioned in the Times

Michael Shear said: "President Obama had that famous thing where he once said I think there were 57 states." But the Times barely mentioned Obama's "famous" flub. Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Perry's "oops" moment at a GOP debate garnered front-page coverage.

The latest New York Times weekly 'Caucus' podcast hosted by reporters Sam Roberts and Michael Shear, opened with Gov. Rick Perry's blank-out over the third federal agency he would shut down at last week's Republican presidential debate. Shear compared Perry's flub to a supposedly 'famous' one by candidate Barack Obama in 2008, in which Obama appeared to think there were 58 states in the U.S. But was it famous in the Times?

The exchange from the podcast, created last Thursday and posted to nytimes.com on Friday.

Sam Roberts: 'But the fact is, he couldn't remember that the Energy Department was the third agency he planned to cut if he got elected president. Michael, why is that such a big gaffe? It does proof he's human, that's reassuring to know of a presidential candidate, but why is that such a big deal in this campaign?'

Michael Shear: 'Look, I think every political campaign has their moment when the candidate makes a slip-up. President Obama had that famous thing where he once said I think there were 57 states. I mean, President Reagan has made these kinds of flubs at times.' (Obama said at a May 2008 rally in Oregon: 'Over the last 15 months, we've traveled to every corner of the United States. I've now been in 57 states? I think one left to go.')

But Shear's 'famous thing' (Obama's comment actually suggested he thought America had 58 states) was hardly famous at the Times. In fact, a Nexis search indicates Obama's '57 states' remark was never quoted in a single news story. Two columnists brought it up, and it appeared in a quote from comedian Jimmy Kimmel in a brief compilation of humorous statements. By contrast, Rick Perry's 'oops' moment has been the subject of several news stories, including a front-page story the day after. Obama's comment was excused as the slip-up of a tired campaigner, while Perry's gaffe was pounced on by a media receptive to the caricature of a verbally challenged conservative candidate.