Fact Check: Scott Brown’s ‘Bqhatevwr’ Was a Pocket Tweet
An investigation into Brown’s explanation.
Scott Brown broke his relative post-election moratorium on interviews to talk with Fox 25’s Maria Stephanos, marking the first time a reporter could ask about his political prospe—ha no, we’re kidding, of course this was most notably an opportunity to ask about his minor viral Twitter mishap. Sure, there were a few bits of hard news to come out of the interview—Brown discussed his loss to Elizabeth Warren, his decision not to run in the special election, and said he isn’t ruling out a run for governor. On that last point, he said:
I’m not going to be one of those ‘ooh I’m really not thinking about it.’ Of course I’m thinking about it. I’m thinking about a lot of different thing things. But right now the best thing I can do for myself and for my peace of mind and I think for the people of Massachusetts is just to hang tight and recharge and be active.
But let’s look at his explanation for a late-night message sent out over Twitter last month that read “bqhatevwr.” What started out as merely a typo—egregious and suspiciously late at night, yes, but not all that scandalous—quickly ricocheted around the internet, spawning jokes and Tumblrs and memes, as random internet happenings are wont to do. Brown says it was merely a case of pocket-tweeting, and sounds appropriately confused about the rabid interest in it. (Best not to ask questions of the internet, Scott. There are rarely good answers.) Brown told Stephanos:
If anyone has an iPhone 5, the keys are small. It’s very, very sensitive. Ayla was teaching my how to get on Facebook and Twitter. There are some areas I don’t understand, so after her comment I responded to a couple people, put it in my pocket … I wake up, and it’s trending worldwide.
Let’s examine these claims at greater length than anyone should, because why not? There are memes at stake, guys. Memes!
Claim: If anyone has an iPhone 5, the keys are small. It’s very, very sensitive.
Ruling: True. Well, it’s either that or all of humanity’s thumbs are abnormally large. Yes, typing on the touch screen of an iPhone often results in hitting a letter adjacent to the one we intended. This is why we have autocorrect. See, for instance, this Ellen Degeneres Apple commercial spoof (for which Apple stupidly made her apologize):
Claim: Ayla was teaching me how to get on Facebook and Twitter. There are some areas I don’t understand.
Ruling: Highly probable. Any millenial whose parents own Apple devices can tell you that the requirements of filial piety in the 21st century are nearly indistinguishable from the job duties of a Genius Bar employee. (Confused mom: “Sweetie, how do I get my iPod to play this Sarah McLachlan record?” Sarcastic Millenial: “Hit play.” CM: “Which one is that?” SM: “The universal symbol for play? The forward pointing triangle?” CP: “Can you just come here and show me?” SM: “What? No. Just hit play!” Et cetera, ad nauseum.)
Claim: I responded to a couple people.
This is verifiably true. Brown did respond to a few haters that night and a few of his messages contained the word “whatever.”
Claim: The ‘bqhatevwr’ tweet happened in his pocket
Ruling: Possible but improbable. The iPhone has a habit of remembering words you type that it didn’t initially recognize. This is helpful if your lexicon includes non-words like “BTW” or “fugly” because it will stop trying to correct you once it has learned them. This creates the unfortunate side-effect of teaching the iPhone your typos and even occasionally suggesting them as alternatives when you type something else it doesn’t recognize. When Brown typed the word “whatever” in an earlier Tweet, it’s possible that he could have mistyped it, then backspaced and corrected himself, unintentionally teaching his iPhone the word “bqhatevwr.” This would allow his phone to supply ‘bqhatevwr’ as an auto-correct to whatever random buttons his thigh pressed while his phone sat in his pocket with its screen still activated and the Twitter app still open. It seems unlikely that his pocket would both type ‘bqhatevwr’ or some approxmation and press the “send tweet” key. So maybe he’s fudging the exact mechanics of the mistakenly sent Tweet. But what we’re saying here is that alcohol is not the only explanation. The iPhone’s autocorrect function often makes our text messages look like they were written by a person halfway to blackout city when in fact they were merely written by someone with mildly poor motor skills or chubby fingers. (Yes, personal experience may have played a role in this analysis …) The Simpsons, as ever, offer a helpful primer:
On the possibility that Brown was drunk-tweeting, he had this to say:
First of all, I rarely drink. The last time I was ever drunk was at my bachelor party and that was what? — 28 years ago, 27 years ago. So I guess no one has ever pocket dialed or pocket tweeted before.
Perhaps he is lying and he was under the influence. Let’s acknowledge that, strictly speaking, it does not really matter. Who would blame him for indulging a bit? He’s open with Stephanos that he doesn’t have much else going on while he recharges and considers his political future. He’s learning Spanish, playing the guitar, and apparently, learning the pitfalls of mobile tweeting. But the internet made a tizzy of this, and the internet demands answers. Now, we’ve got them, and Brown can strum his cancións and contemplate a run for governor in peace.