President Trump's allies are fond of calling the steadily-expanding Russia scandal a "nothing burger." To capitalize on the phrase's newfound popularity, a Washington, D.C., burger joint is giving free "nothing burgers," consisting of just a plain patty and bun. Anyone who goes into Z-Burger's Tenleytown location on Tuesday between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and uses the code word "nothingburger" will receive a free bare-bones burger.
After it was first reported that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus called the story "a big nothing burger." Days later, when it was revealed that Trump Jr. was told that the meeting was part of a Kremlin-sponsored effort to elect Trump, Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin quipped that the new allegations amounted to "some condiment on this nothing burger."
In a promotional email posted by POLITICO's Hadas Gold, Z-Burger founder Peter Tabibian explained his reasoning.
For years, when someone ordered a plain burger I have always yelled out the order as "Nothing Burger" to my cooks, so I think I actually invented the term. So on Tuesday, people can come in and order a beef, veggie, or turkey Nothing Burger on our fresh buns, and they will see what a Nothing Burger really is.
The term "nothing burger" is generally used as shorthand for news that, while superficially controversial, isn't substantively important or impactful. Although it's gained currency recently, the phrase "nothing burger" has been around for more than half a century. According to CNN, it first appeared in print in 1953 when entertainment columnist Louella Parsons wrote that "if it hadn't been for [producer] Sam Goldwyn, [actor] Farley Granger might very well be a nothingburger."
It slowly picked up steam. In 1984, when President Reagan appointed a controversial figure to an advisory committee, the appointee in question described the issue as a "nothingburger." That same year, it was used in an article about San Francisco attempting to attract more tourists than Los Angeles, and it surfaced again in 1997 in an Connecticut newspaper article about a budget deal.
But just because somebody claims that something is a nothing burger doesn't mean that it actually is: In 2016, shortly after former FBI Director James Comey sent his infamous letter to Congress regarding the Clinton email investigation, former Barack Obama adviser David Plouffe called the story a "nothingburger" on Twitter. Later, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight determined that the Comey letter probably swung the election to Trump.
Ironically, the actual fact that Z-Burger is giving away free "nothing burgers" is not, in and of itself, a nothing burger. Because hey, it's a free burger, and there's nothing insignificant about a free burger.