It is a moment reminiscent of the JFK assassination, in that virtually all Americans can remember exactly where they were when it happened.
"I was on the sofa," they say. Or, "I was in the bathroom and missed the traumatic moment, but fortunately we have TiVo." As the nation reels in shock, the networks ban all programs that feature any kind of nudity, including unclothed fish. Congress also swiftly swings into action: Democrats blame the Bush administration, noting that the nipple was revealed on Bush's watch; while Republicans point out that, during all eight years of the Clinton administration, Janet Jackson clearly possessed nipples, and Bill Clinton was almost certainly aware of this.
(Illustration by Richard Thompson)
Bush himself suggests the possibility that the nipples could have originated in Iraq. John Kerry notes that there were nipples in Vietnam.
Elsewhere in politics, feisty Internet genius Howard Dean drops out of the Democratic race after losing 17 consecutive primaries, despite leading in every single exit poll. Meanwhile, Ralph Nader announces that he will again run for president, a decision that is hailed unanimously by Nader's support base, which consists of Ralph and his imaginary friend, Wendell, the talking space turtle.
In entertainment news, the feel-good hit of the winter is Mel Gibson's wacky film romp "The Passion of the Christ," although critics of product placement object to the scene where Pontius Pilate can be seen holding a Diet Sprite.
On the cultural front, the mayor of San Francisco attempts to legalize same-sex marriage, which outrages those who believe that marriage is a sacred institution that should be entered into only by heterosexual people, such as Britney Spears and Mike Tyson.
Speaking of fighters, in . . .
. . . John Kerry sews up the Democratic nomination with primary victories in California, Florida, Illinois, Canada, France, Germany and Sweden. Kerry's closest rival, John Edwards, drops out of the race, but Dennis Kucinich stays in, saying that he intends to keep his idealistic grass-roots campaign going until either all U.S. troops leave Iraq, or Dennis finds a girlfriend.
In other political news, Russian president and former KGB agent Vladimir Putin easily wins reelection and, in a gesture of reconciliation, orders his opponents released from his limo trunk.
There is finally some positive news from Iraq, where negotiators reach agreement on an interim constitution, which guarantees that, for the first time ever, Iraq will be governed by a duly elected council of nervous men in armored cars going 80 mph.
In domestic news, U.S. gasoline prices reach record levels when, in what economists describe as a freak coincidence, two drivers attempt to refuel their Humvees on the same day.
On the legal front, a federal jury convicts Martha Stewart on four counts of needing to be taken down a peg. In what many experts call an unduly harsh punishment, a federal judge sentences Stewart to be the topic of 17 consecutive weeks of Jay Leno jokes.
Speaking of punishments, in . . .
. . . the Federal Communications Commission levies a $495,000 fine against Clear Channel Communications for a 2003 incident in which Howard Stern, on his nationally broadcast radio show, exposed his right nipple.
But the big entertainment news comes at the end of the two-hour season finale of the megahit reality show "The Apprentice," when Donald Trump, in the most-anticipated event of the year -- and quite possibly all of human history -- fires that one guy, whatshisname, and keeps that other guy. You remember. It was huge.
Meanwhile, in another blow to the U.S.-led coalition effort in Iraq, Spain withdraws its troop, Sgt. Juan Hernandez. As violence in Iraq escalates, critics of the Bush administration charge that there are not enough U.S. troops over there. Administration officials heatedly deny this, arguing that the real problem is that there are too many Iraqis over there. In the words of one high-level official (who is not identified in press reports because of the difficulties involved in spelling "Condoleezza"), the administration "may have to relocate the Iraqis to a safer area, such as Ecuador." John Kerry calls this "a ridiculous idea," adding, "I wholeheartedly endorse it."
In economic news, the price of a gallon of gasoline at the pump reaches $236.97, prompting widespread concern that there is something wrong with this particular pump.
Congress vows to hold hearings.
Speaking of things gone wrong, in . . .
. . . world outrage grows in reaction to photos taken inside Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib prison, showing U.S. soldiers repeatedly forcing prisoners to look at the video of Janet Jackson's right nipple. As human rights organizations voice outrage, President Bush vows to "punish whoever is responsible for this, no matter who it is, unless, of course, it is Donald Rumsfeld." Congress vows to hear holdings.