Mick Mulvaney Gets His Ass Kicked In His Private Trivia League

Or, at least, someone with his exact name and background does.
Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

Mick Mulvaney is a busy man. In addition to spending the past three months as the acting (though perhaps soon-to-be permanent) White House chief of staff, he’s also the president’s budget director. And until December, Mulvaney enjoyed an illustrious stint as the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. During the course of his CFPB leadership, agency morale plummeted by 25 points.

There is one more role Mulvaney appears to have taken on during his time in the White House that has yet to be made public: Since Feb. 20, 2018, Mick seems to have spent a portion of nearly every workday getting beaten at a private online trivia game.

Mulvaney (or someone who shares his name, alma mater, hometown, Irish pride and at least one acquaintance) appears to be a member of Learned League, an online, invite-only trivia competition that pits players against each other over the course of each 25-day-long season. A player’s first season is free, while the next year’s worth of seasons costs $30. Each business day of the season, users go head-to-head with another player in their assigned league to answer six fill-in-the-blank trivia questions from a number of categories as they attempt to rise through the ranks.

Because Learned League takes the integrity of its trivia very seriously, it demands that its members do the same. As such, anyone lucky enough to be invited into the league will need to offer quite a bit of information about themselves, all in the spirit of forthrightness. From the site’s privacy policy:

As LearnedLeague is built on a foundation of player honesty, it is not possible to allow total anonymity on a player’s part. In order to participate in LearnedLeague as a player, one must register with the league using his or her real name (first and last) and email address. LL player nomenclature policy is that, for new players, a Player Name will consist (at the least) of a player’s last name and first initial (e.g. ‘SmithM’). If this is still too revealing for a player’s taste, and/or if the player is famous or high-profile (e.g. ‘ObamaM’), accommodations can be made, but only in select circumstances, and always in the spirit of league integrity.

In addition to requiring players to use their real names, Learned League also lists its users’ gender, location and college. Which is how we know that user MulvaneyM, who, remarkably, has never missed a day of questions, is a male from Lancaster, South Carolina, who attended Georgetown University and chose a shamrock as his user flag.

As it just so happens, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney is also from Lancaster, South Carolina, also attended Georgetown and is also a proud Irish-American. What’s more, Learned League allows members to see who players have invited to join the league, and two of the players referred by MulvaneyM — WeichertM and JohnsonB8 — share names with Mulvaney’s picks for acting director of the Office of Personnel Management in the White House Office of Management and Budget and acting deputy director of the CFPB, respectively. We’ve reached out to Mulvaney for confirmation on his trivia habit and will update if and when we hear back.

The intricacies of Learned League’s rules and ranking system can get a little complicated (though you can read about them here if you’d like), but for our purposes, the most important thing to know is that Learned League allows its members to view every question anyone on the site has ever gotten right or wrong. One of the more illuminating ways Learned League breaks down information, though, is by question category, which means you can see both the percentage of questions MulvaneyM answered correctly in each category as well as the corresponding site-wide averages.

Here’s how MulvaneyM’s career average of correctly answered questions compares to the average user, broken down by category.

So, in over five seasons of math questions, for example, MulvaneyM’s score was 19 percentage points worse than the average user. In all categories combined, MulvaneyM’s average score was 8 percentage points worse. To his credit, he does have the average user beat in Business and Econ questions by about 16 percent — a ringing endorsement of our president’s budget chief.

Here are some of those questions Mulvaney got right, along with their corresponding answers in bold:

  • What is God, according to the title of a recent hit song by Ariana Grande? (A Woman)

  • What three words fill in the blanks in this quote, Article II Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution? “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other _______ _______ and _______.” (High, Crimes, Misdemeanors)

  • The U.S. federal statute known colloquially as “Obamacare” and often shortened to the “Affordable Care Act” has a full name that is abbreviated PPACA. What do the letters “PP” in this abbreviation stand for? (Patient Protection)

  • Jerry Lewis and Tim Meadows both portrayed the lead characters in films—from 1961 and 2000, respectively—that, though very different in plot and style (and reception), shared what title? (The Ladies Man)

  • In the mid-1980s, Brooklyn-born rappers Cheryl James and Sandra Denton achieved stardom in what R&B group, which, despite its name, was actually a trio (with DJ Spinderella)? (Salt-N-Pepa)

And here are some questions Mulvaney did not:

  • What former U.S. President served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from July 1921 to February 1930? (William Howard Taft)

  • Who replaced Malcolm Turnbull on August 24, 2018, as Prime Minister of Australia? (Scott Morrison)

  • What two-word slogan and ideological term was used as the title of a 1954 book by Richard Wright and was later popularized by Stokely Carmichael during his time as Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) before evolving into a broader (and potent) political movement? (Black Power)

  • In economics, seigniorage is defined as the profits made by a ruler or government from the production of what? (Currency/Money/Coinage)

  • While it has over a dozen titles in its portfolio, the publishing company American Media, Inc., has been newsworthy recently for what weekly, the title with which American Media was originally affiliated when the company was founded? (National Enquirer)

  • Two Grammy Awards, a Nobel Peace Prize, and over a dozen honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D) degrees are among the laurels bestowed upon what individual? (Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter)

  • The origin of the phrase “Me Too” (in the context of pervasive sexual abuse in society) is credited to civil rights activist Tarana Burke, whereas its popularization is credited to what actress (and activist in her own right) who used the phrase and sparked the campaign on Twitter in October 2017? (Alyssa Milano)

  • Following scandals involving an affair with a staff member and an allegation of sexual harassment, Barnaby Joyce resigned in February as deputy prime minister and National Party leader of what country? (Australia)

  • What is the usual name for the sauce/condiment that is, in its traditional French (and most common) version, effectively a garlic mayonnaise? Its name is a Provençal portmanteau for its two main ingredients. (Note: diaeresis is not required.) (Aioli)

  • With over 23 million residents, what self-governing state is the most populous such entity, by far, that is not a member of the United Nations? From 2004 until 2010, it was home to the world’s tallest building. (Taiwan/Republic of China)

  • What color represents the highest level (“Hazardous”) on the EPA’s Air Quality Index, is included in the name of a pop music band whose last five studio albums have reached the top 2 on the Billboard 200 album chart, and is the name of a student newspaper at the University of Chicago? (Maroon)

  • The Saga of an American Family is the subtitle of what 1976 historical fiction Pulitzer Prize-winning runaway best seller? (Roots)

  • Following the cancellation of the sitcom Roseanne in May 2018, ABC ordered what spinoff series, featuring the same cast of characters (sans Roseanne) who are left to deal with the character Roseanne’s death due to a drug overdose? (The Conners)

  • According to a line in the show’s theme song (the fifth line, to be exact), where precisely was the title character born and raised on the TV series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air? (West Philadelphia)

Unfortunately, Learned League doesn’t let users see how players answered past questions, only whether they got the answers right or wrong. You can see Mulvaney’s question history in its entirety in the PDF below.

Despite his passion for the game, though, this latest season, which began Feb. 20 and ended Thursday, has not been kind. Over the course of 25 matches, MulvaneyM has had just four victories. Another six ended in ties. The remaining 15 matches ended in defeat. As of today, he has officially placed last in his 25 person division.

But, hey, at least work’s going well.

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