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upton_idol.jpgThe speed at which a goofed statement can become national news reached new heights this weekend, as Miss South Carolina, Caitlin Upton, flubbed a question so badly at Friday’s Miss Teen USA pageant that it was a YouTube phenomenon over the weekend, part of Jay Leno’s monologue Monday night, and she appeared live on NBC’s “Today” show this morning.
As blunders go, this went beyond funny all the way to painful. Watch it here.
Ms. Upton, an 18-year old blonde girl with the look of a model and the new nickname “Beauty Teen,” was asked the following question: “Recent polls have showed one-fifth of Americans cannot locate the U.S. on a world map. Why do you think this is?” Her answer was as un-comprehendible as it was unbelievable:


“I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uhmmm, some people out there in our nation don’t have maps and uh, I believe that our, I, education like such as uh, South Africa, and uh, the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should, uhhh, our education over here in the US should help the US, uh, should help South Africa, it should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future, for us.”
As embarrassing as the answer was, she has become–in a matter of 96 hours–one of the quickest redemption stories to hit the airwaves in some time. While the embarrassments of celebrities and politicians seem to last for months (if not years or lifetimes), hers will likely be gone by Friday. Due to the spread of her obnoxiously airhead-y answer she will become known more for her well-spoken confidence and her runway walk in a swimsuit than that answer, which is quickly becoming forgiveable in a way that I can’t remember from any more seasoned celebrity.
“Today” co-hosts Matt Lauer and Ann Curry were falling all over themselves to express encouragement and forgiveness, as if they were spokespeople for a nation. She received a high five from Ann and the rock from Matt, as well as these affirmations:

  • “We do live television every day; I can’t even count the number of times I’ve said things and then we all go to commercial break and get asked, ‘What did you say?’ You’ll be fine.”
  • “Don’t let it get you down.”
  • “We give you a lot of credit for being here.”
  • “Good girl; good girl, you!”
  • “Thank you for being big enough to come laugh at yourself.”
  • “You’ve got a lot of grit.
  • Then, of course, she was given a “re-do” on the question, to which she showed the poise of a presidential candidate with her well-rehearsed stump speech response:
    “Personally, my friends and I, we know exactly where the United States is on our map. I don’t know anyone else who doesn’t. And, if the statistics are correct, I believe there should be more emphasis on geography in our education, so people will learn to read maps better.” Later, she even did the live explanation of what a lunar eclipse is, and Ann pointed out that she received a “120” on her test. I can only hope–and pray–that many young girls see the character she is showing and the resiliance that is catapulting her to restoration and perhaps even more.
    Lauren Caitlin Upton actually managed to finish third in the Miss Teen USA concert, even with her flub. I have a feeling that as the years go on, she’ll be light years more famous than whoever it was that actually won the contest. Today’s Tuesday, and I certainly don’t remember who the winner was! But I remember Ms. Upton.

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