Debunking The Oscars Mishap Conspiracy


Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz, the two accountants at PricewaterhouseCoopers who were in the middle of the Best Picture snafu, are still employed at the accounting firm but are barred from counting Oscars ballots and working the ceremony, according to Reuters. Additionally, Reuters also states details have come to light that indicate Cullinan is apparently the person who gave Warren Beatty the incorrect envelope, perhaps as a result of being distracted by posting a backstage photo of Emma Stone who had just won Best Actress.

The 89th annual Academy Awards ceremony was held on Sunday night and was a great, entertaining show. Unfortunately, one mishap changed everything.

In case you haven’t heard – or seen – by now, legendary actors, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were tapped to present the biggest award of the evening: Best Picture. After reading off the nominees, Beatty proceeded to open the envelope but looked perplexed when he took the card out that named the winner. After at least 30 seconds of blank stares, Beatty handed the card over to Dunaway who announced it was La La Land.  Problem is, Moonlight had actually won. The mistake was discovered by stage managers and some of La La Land‘s producers. Beatty explained what apparently happened in the midst of the confusion on stage: he was given an envelope for Best Actress, which had been announced earlier that evening. The mishap sent shockwaves throughout the Dolby Theatre and quickly made its way to social media, many people chiming in with hottakes on what happened. Some others went a step further and began to spread conspiracy theories, such as Beatty and/or Dunaway read the name of the film they wanted to win. Emma Stone, who won Best Actress for her role in La La Land, added fuel to the conspiracy theorists’ fire by telling the press that she didn’t know what happened other than she had the envelope with Best Actress on it the whole time, even during the Best Picture presentation.

As a writer with a journalistic mind, I strive to do my best to bring you the truth. Hopefully I can do so with this mishap. A tweet from Ev Williams that cited a Q&A with Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz, partners at accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers debunked the conspiracies. Cullinan and Ruiz are on either side of the stage with briefcases, each containing all 24 awards envelopes. Whatever side of the stage the presenter(s) walk out on determines from whom they get an envelope. According to an article from The New York Times today that corroborates this process, Beatty and Dunaway took the stage from the opposite side of where the Best Actress presenter came from and were given the duplicate Best Actress envelope by mistake. In addition to those articles, a photo was tweeted out by actor Neil Patrick Harris shortly after the snafu showing Beatty holding an envelope that appears to say “Actress in a Leading Role” (see below).


So, relax, folks! No conspiracies. What’s really sad, here, is Moonlight and La La Land were both very deserving of Best Picture and it’s a shame that this mishap will overshadow Moonlight‘s historic win as well as La La Land and the rest of the films that were honored. No doubt, this will live forever in Oscars infamy.

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