Mo Rocca: 'We'll all be on bikes'

It was just a little thing, but another Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me! panelist managed to irritate me over the weekend.

Mo Rocca
Mo Rocca | Photo: Muppet Wiki

The first time it was P.J. O’Rourke. This time it’s Mo Rocca.

I was listening to the show from April 23, 2011. They were playing “Who’s Carl This Time.” The question had to do with Standard and Poor’s credit rating of the United States.

Here’s a section of the transcript:

[PETER] SAGAL: All right, if we do default on our debt, they say we’ll become a third world country, instantly. Big crisis. But what’s wrong with that? Why not embrace that? A third world United States would finally get interested in soccer.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. [EMILY] DICKINSON: That’s right.

Mr. [ADAM] FELBER: That’s true.

SAGAL: We could enjoy the thrills of bringing your livestock onto public transportation.


SAGAL: I’ve always wanted to do that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. [MO] ROCCA: We’ll all be…

We’ll all be what, Mo?

It’s not as though he was drowned out by laughter. He clearly says, “We’ll all be on bikes.”

Before anyone jumps on me for being hypersensitive, I’m not calling for one of those petty Internet campaigns to demand an apology over an offhanded comment. This is just another example of “What we’re up against.” (I could almost create a blog category about that. Maybe I will.)

I don’t believe that offhanded comment was meant with a mean spirit. But it came from a place in his consciousness that equates automobiles with progress, and bicycles with backwardness. And what makes Mo Rocca funny–what makes anyone funny–is that they understand instinctively the cultural context in which they speak.

This is what we’re up against.

But isn’t it fascinating that “riding bicycles” would be left out of the transcript? Is NPR sensitive to offending cyclists? I’m actually worried that they’ll do a Juan Williams on poor Mo.

The relevant clip is at 02:45.

Mo, You’ve annoyed me, but I’ve got your back. If you do lose your Wait! Wait! job in an act of NPR skittishness, a bike is a really efficient and economical way of getting around DC. I’ve got contacts at The League of American Bicyclists and Washington Area Bicyclist Association, and I can hook you up with a bike dog trailer

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