Belmont Club

Murphy strikes again

Fox News reports that members of the press who were interested in listening to Hillary Clinton’s views on the NATO summit were accidentally given a phone sex number.

In a press release, the White House accidentally listed a sex line number for journalists seeking an “on-the-record briefing call with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Advisor Jim Jones to discuss the NATO summit.” But after dialing, a soft-voiced female recording that was clearly not Clinton asked for a credit card number if you “feel like getting nasty.” …

Asked for comment about this mishap, Deputy White House Press Secretary Bill Burton responded: “A corrected phone number on a press release is probably one of the stupider things FOX News has covered lately.”

What are the odds that an arbitrary telephone number provided to reporters just happens to ring at a phone sex service? It would be interesting to compare the original number mistakenly provided to the press with the real, corrected one. If they are radically different, then the typographical error hypothesis can be safely discarded and the “lookup error” possibility becomes increasingly likely.  A wrong record error is returned when the “where clause” is wrong. That’s to say, the phone sex number was in somebody’s Rolodex or electronic phone book, but the wrong number got looked up; or alternatively somebody did a cut-and-paste but the previous contents of the buffer somehow surived into the paste.

Just goes to show that in a complex system that “if there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong” or “nature always sides with the hidden flaw”.