Why Obama Press Secretary Jay Carney Needs To Go

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on August 16, 2011 – 1:36 am

President Obama’s poll numbers are now languishing at the 40 percent mark – the lowest of his presidency. Given his low approval ratings and the tumultuous U.S. economy, he desperately needs a press secretary who can help advance his message as he enters what will surely be a bruising campaign.

Jay Carney, who has been on the job since February, is not that person.

Mr. Carney seems incapable of parrying successfully with the press. He regularly appears outmatched by reporters and fails to take control of the interaction when presented an easy opportunity to do so. He takes questions too literally, gets bogged down in the details, and fumbles to find his way to a higher-level response. He stammers, shifts his eyes uncomfortably, licks his lips, and loads his delivery with “uhhs,” “umms” “I thinks,” and “you knows.”

He sounds timid, looks uncomfortable, and comes across more like an eager student than an experienced spokesperson capable of advancing President Obama’s agenda.

As an example, here’s a video of his press briefing from last Wednesday:

Several times throughout the briefing, Mr. Carney actually read his answers to reporters directly from a briefing book. While reading, he didn’t make eye contact with the press, nor did he forge any connection with the viewers at home. His role was completely superfluous – if he’s just going to read documents to the press, he may as well hand them out and let the reporters read the material for themselves.

Even when delivering a solid television-friendly sound bite, he undercuts his effectiveness with his own verbal filler (at 9:29):

“This President will not rest until he is uhhh confident that every American who uhhh wants a job can find a job. And uhhh there is no greater focus of his work uhhh of this Administration’s work uhhh than the economy.”

 

In a February article in Politico, former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer said:

“It’s become a TV show. It’s really not the real substance of the relationship between the press corps and the spokesman. The real work is done 20 times a day when reporters walk into your office, close the door and talk one on one with you.”

 

That may be true on the substance, but millions of viewers watch the live briefing or catch excerpts on television, online, and on the radio. Mr. Fleischer underestimates the importance of Mr. Carney’s public role, given that he is arguably second only to the President in visibility. If Carney is truly terrific behind closed doors, the White House should keep him in the background and appoint a separate person to handle on-camera briefings.

Mr. Carney seems like a genuinely nice man who is trying hard to get this right. But he’s the wrong person for the job. If you believe as I do that presidents deserve to be served by spokespersons that represent them well, Mr. Carney has got to go.

Follow politics and the media? Like our Facebook page to keep up with our latest posts at www.Facebook.com/MrMediaTraining.

Related: Ten Years After 9/11, President George W. Bush Is Still Wrong

Related: Scorecard: August 11 Republican Debate

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Media and Presentation Training Workshops

Attend one of our fast-moving and content-rich workshops! You'll receive personalized feedback in a small-group setting that helps you become a more effective speaker.


Next workshop: August 26-27, 2014

VIEW FULL SCHEDULE

Join our email list to get our 21 most essential media training tips

An Amazon #1 PR Bestseller: The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need To Know Before Your Next Interview. Learn more.

  • About Mr. Media Training

    The Mr. Media Training Blog offers daily tips to help readers become better media spokespersons and public speakers. It also examines how well (or poorly) public figures are communicating through the media.

    Brad Phillips is the Founder and Managing Editor of the Mr. Media Training Blog. He is the president of Phillips Media Relations, a media and presentation training firm with offices in NYC and DC.

    Brad Phillips

    Before founding Phillips Media Relations in 2004, Brad worked as a journalist with ABC's Nightline with Ted Koppel and CNN's Reliable Sources and The Capital Gang.

    Brad tweets at @MrMediaTraining.

    Christina Mozaffari is the Senior Writer for the Mr. Media Training Blog. She is the Washington, D.C. vice president for Phillips Media Relations.

    Brad Phillips

    Before joining Phillips Media Relations in 2011, Christina worked as a journalist with NBC News, where she produced stories for MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, NBC Nightly News, and The Today Show.

    Christina tweets at @PMRChristina.

  • Comments or Tips?

  • Media Requests

    To book Brad Phillips for a media interview, please e-mail Contact@MrMediaTraining.com
  • In The News

    Click here to see media coverage of Brad Phillips and the Mr. Media Training Blog.
  • Media Training

    Click here for more information about our customized media training workshops. To book a media training workshop, e-mail Info@PhillipsMediaRelations.com