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Post Column: Inaugural lip-sync not event's worst scandal

Congratulations, America! We have already successfully embroiled the White House in controversy before President Barack Obama has even had enough time to properly start his second term.

The grave subject of intense debate this time? Beyoncé’s potential lip-syncing of the national anthem. Because there’s nothing else important going on in the country right now.

During the past week, (un)due attention has been paid by national news sites such as CNN, NPR, and NBC News to the dangerous possibility that Beyoncé’s brilliant performance might have been prerecorded. Never mind the fact that no one at the inauguration ceremony itself noticed, and that the issue was only brought up afterward. Suddenly the media is crying  “farce,” as if somewhere out there, Beyoncé has violated a fundamental law of nature in using a performance technique that every modern singer has used before.

Beyoncé’s critics are beside themselves with indignation at this highly inappropriate use of technology. But Beyoncé’s lip-syncing is, at the very least, mild in comparison to some other historical inauguration snafus.

Take President Abraham Lincoln’s second-term inauguration, at which his own vice president, Andrew Johnson, showed up completely hammered.

But let us not be too hasty in our assumptions! As Johnson later disclosed, he had good reason to be drunk. During the week leading up to the inauguration, Johnson had been stricken with a bout of typhoid fever, so he drank three glasses of “medicinal” whiskey on the day of the ceremony.

The results, however, were anything but excusable. Johnson couldn’t walk into the Senate chamber by himself, and instead had to be supported by outgoing Vice President Hannibal Hamlin.

When it came time for Johnson to speak, he rambled for 17 minutes instead of the prescribed seven. He began by proclaiming his trust in the other Cabinet leaders, and proceeded to name off all the Cabinet members. However, he paused and stared at the secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, before asking another man by the podium audibly who he was.

It was reported that Lincoln could only slump “despondently.”

In the end, Hamlin had to pull on Johnson’s coattails to get him to end the speech and sit down. Later, when Johnson was to be sworn in, he placed his hand on the Bible and said in slurred speech: “I kiss this book in the face of my nation, the United States.”

He then planted a large, sloppy kiss on the Bible, which I am sure was awkward for everyone.

There were more dangerous inauguration incidents to date. During John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, the podium actually caught fire from an electrical short-circuit, emitting a cloud of smoke and drawing concerned frowns from both Dwight Eisenhower and Kennedy before it was finally put out.

Then, when inaugural poet Robert Frost went up to the podium to read his poem, Frost found that he could not see because of the light reflected off of the snow that had fallen the day before. He tried to find a way to read his work. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson even tried to block the light with his top hat, but to no avail. Frost ended up reciting another poem from memory.

President William Henry Harrison gave a droning, long inaugural address that ultimately lasted more than two hours. Despite the frigid temperatures and rainy weather, Harrison refused to wear a coat. Thanks to his exposure to the elements, Harrison caught pneumonia and died about a month later.

A drunk vice president, a burning podium and a dead president. To the critics who cry foul, I think Beyoncé’s lip-synching could be considered the least of the inaugural ceremony’s historical no-no’s.

Kevin Hwang is a senior at Athens High School who is taking classes at Ohio University and a columnist for The Post. Would you be upset if Beyoncé lip-synced? Email Kevin at

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