The media attention paid to Mitt Romney’s controversial, off-the-cuff claim that 47 percent of Americans pay no income tax was bad enough. But Romney’s retraction that he was “completely wrong” may create even more damage, from an unlikely source: Google’s Image Search.
In September, footage of Romney speaking at a non-photo-op event leaked to the press, in which the Republican candidate claimed that “47 percent of the people” are essentially moochers who live off the government and “pay no income tax.” In an interview last Thursday with Sean Hannity at Fox News, Romney backtracked, stating that his previous claim was “just completely wrong.”
But Romney may have a new problem on his hands: Now, thanks to the abundance of media outlets and other Internet sources covering the fiasco and his retraction, the words “completely wrong” have worked their way to the forefront of Google’s Image search—all associated, out of context, with Romney himself.
Tumblr and Twitter yesterday were both full of the “completely wrong” joke, with members urging each other to go to Google Image Search and type in the phrase, without revealing the results—so that Romney’s face itself becomes the punch line. A current screengrab reveals how dramatically the phrase has shot up in popularity within the week since the interview.
Some Internet denizens speculated that the rise in popularity could be the result of a Google bomb, a deliberate attempt to trick Google’s search algorithm by launching targeted hits at a page linking the desired search result. But the top hits are all from reputable news sources covering the story—ABC, Gawker, USA Today, the Washington Post, and other outlets.
No, in this instance, the Image Search seems to be the Internet simply doing what the Internet does best: picking up on the de-contextualization of Romney’s remarks and turning it into a viral meme.
Although Romney’s campaign may sting for a few days, it certainly won’t be the first time he’s had his messages taken out of context—nor even the most recent. Romney’s remarks from last week’s interview pre-date the latest embarrassing Romney-related gaffe: Fox’s less-than-amused broadcast of an AP photo showing a young girl reacting to Romney’s, er, photo op:
In the scheme of things that are “completely wrong,” it looks like Romney’s media campaign may have bigger things to worry about than a trendy Google catchphrase.
Photo by Aja Romano