This Day in Failure: March 20

2020: On this day, NBC White House correspondent Peter Alexander asks U.S. president Donald Trump what he would like to say to frightened Americans in the wake of an ever-widening coronavirus outbreak. Specifically, Alexander asked, “What do you say to Americans who are scared, though? I guess, nearly 200 dead, 14,000 who are sick, millions—as you witnessed—who are scared right now. What do you say to Americans who are watching right now who are scared?”

Instead of responding, Trump says, “I say that you’re a terrible reporter, that’s what I say…. I think it’s a very nasty question, and I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people. The American people are looking for answers and they’re looking for hope and you’re doing sensationalism and the same with NBC and ‘con-cast’, I don’t call it ‘Comcast’, I call it ‘con-cast.’”

… And then: “Let me just tell you something, that’s really bad reporting. And you ought to get back to reporting instead of sensationalism. Let’s see if it works, it might and it might not, I happen to feel good about it, but who knows, I’ve been right a lot…. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

2019: A 64-year-old employee of a French defense manufacturer is gifted a ride in a military jet courtesy of his colleagues. During the flight—when the plane was subjected to a negative gravitational load factor, which can create the feeling of being upside down—he reaches for something to hold onto, but inadvertently grabs the ejector handle. His helmet comes off as he is ejected from the jet, but his parachute deploys and he suffers only minor injuries when he lands in a field.

2009: NASA’s online contest to name a new room at the international space station goes awry when comedian Stephen Colbert—host of Comedy Central’s show The Colbert Report—urges his audience to vote for “Colbert” on a write-in basis. His fans comply, and by the time the contest ends on this day, “Colbert” has 230,539 votes, forty-thousand more than “Serenity,” the most popular of the four suggested choices. Shortly afterwards, NASA announces that it reserves the right to choose an appropriate name, but plans to give top vote-getters “the most consideration.”

2008: New York City buildings inspector Edward Marquette, 46, is arrested on charges that he lied about inspecting a 20-story construction crane 11 days before it toppled over in midtown Manhattan and killed seven people. Marquette is charged with falsifying business records and offering a false instrument for filing.

2000: Approximately 470 members of the millennialist Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God die in a mass suicide. The cultists feast, burn their possessions, and then lock themselves in a church and set it on fire.

2000: Time Warner announces that it will cease regular publication of Life magazine.