May 2012: The Five Worst Video Media Disasters

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on May 31, 2012 – 6:08 AM

Since starting my month-end disasters lists in September 2010, I’ve knocked Republican and Democratic politicians alike.

During the primary season, I tended to criticize more Republicans. That made sense, since the bruising primary fight on the Republican side absorbed the majority of political air. Despite insisting that my selections weren’t based on ideological bias but just calling ‘em as I saw ‘em, a few people accused me of bias anyway. So be it.

For the second consecutive month, the equation has flipped. Democrats have again taken the majority of the spots on this month’s list. As I said, I call ‘em like I see ‘em. You’re free to disagree with my picks, and I hope you’ll leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Without any further ado, here are my (very subjective) picks for the five worst media disasters of May 2012!

5. President Obama’s Polish Slur

President Obama created a bit of an international incident while awarding a Medal of Freedom to Jan Karski, a Polish man who fought the Nazi occupation of Poland during World War II.

Instead of referring to a “German Nazi camp in occupied Poland,” President Obama called it a “Polish death camp.” Poland’s Prime Minister referred to Obama’s remark as “ignorance, lack of knowledge, bad intentions," and said it amounted to "a distortion of history." Similarly, the Polish foreign minister blasted the President’s “ignorance and incompetence.” 

4. Joe Biden Jumps The Gun on Gay Marriage

When the Vice President said he supported gay marriage on Meet the Press, he sent the White House into a tizzy. Press Secretary Jay Carney first tried – but failed – to explain to the press why the Vice President and President had a different view on gay marriage. Within days, President Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage.

I’m not knocking the Vice President for his support of gay marriage. I’m knocking him because his off-message answer forced the President Obama to announce his own support ahead of schedule, making Obama’s proclamation look as defensive as it was courageous.

And if you think Biden’s remark was intentional, watch one of Mr. Carney’s briefings. The White House clearly hadn’t prepared for it.

3. Donald Trump Bigfoots Mitt Romney

Hours before headlining a high-profile Las Vegas fundraiser with GOP nominee Mitt Romney, circus clown Donald Trump went on CNN and reiterated his certainty that President Obama was born in Kenya.

Trump’s off message birtherism rant created a problem for Mitt Romney, since Romney has chosen to embrace the New York blowhard rather than create a healthy distance from him. Even worse? Romney officially won enough delegates to become the official Republican nominee on the same day – but those celebratory headlines were overshadowed by Trump’s actions. 


2. Two North Carolina “Men of Faith” Encourage Violence Toward Gays

At least two preachers this month were caught on video making disgusting comments about homosexuals. The first person, North Carolina’s Pastor Charles L. Worley, recommended putting gays behind an electrified fence to kill them off.

The second person, a North Carolina evangelical preacher named Sean Harris, instructed his flock that “the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up. Give him a good punch. Ok?”

On their own, these two clips likely had little national impact. But as symbols of the kind of nonsense many “religious” folk are still preaching every day, they can have a major impact on the safety of gay Americans. I can’t help wondering how many more gay suicides will occur before this type of vulgar and violent rhetoric is more broadly stigmatized.


1. Cory Booker Strays Way Off Message

Newark Mayor Cory Booker appeared on Meet The Press this month as a surrogate for President Obama’s re-election bid. But instead of supporting the President’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital, Mr. Booker went rogue and offered a strong dissenting view:

"This kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides. It’s nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity….It’s either going to be a small campaign about this crap or it’s going to be a big campaign.”


Mr. Booker walked back his comments in the days that followed, and the jury is still out on whether or not it will hurt his own future political ambitions. But it’s clear that he forced the Obama campaign way off script and that he damaged the campaign he claimed to support.


Bonus Video 1: Ted Nugent Insists “I’m a Nice Guy"!”

Here’s a contradiction for you: Claiming “I’m a nice guy!” while screaming angrily. Aging rocker Ted Nugent went one better, telling the male correspondent “I’ll suck your fucking dick” and then telling a female producer “Or fuck you, how’s that sound?”

Ummm….yeah. Nice guy.  


Bonus Video 2: MSNBC Host Questions Word “Hero” For Military Dead

On the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend, MSNBC host Chris Hayes questioned whether all military personnel killed in action should be labeled “heroes.” His point seemed to be that some people just find themselves in the crossfire without displaying any particular type of heroism, so labeling them as “heroes” could be used for propaganda purposes. That sparked a debate on cable news shows, websites, and on Twitter, on which thousands of tweeters disagreed about whether or not Hayes’ question was fair game.

Regardless of which side of the debate you’re on, it seems to me that asking the question over Memorial Day weekend, when hundreds of thousands of American families are grieving a loss, was particularly insensitive timing.

Bonus Video 3: A Politician Loses Control

Mike Bost, an Illinois state representative, was angry about plans to overhaul the state’s pension reform system. If he had a legitimate point, it got lost in his angry tone. The video speaks for itself. (h/t Political Wire)

What do you think of this month’s disasters list? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Comments (2)

  1. By Sammy:

    I could not disagree with you more about Rep. Bost’s outburst. It was emotional (TV is an emotional medium) outburst about a subject that is a great frustration for many of us. And while I don’t live in Illinois and have no idea what the media coverage was — though I suppose it was rather extensive — I find it interesting that Bost says most of the public reaction was positive. We should be thankful that Bost and others like him draw attention to the devious ways in which our elected officials work and if it takes an emotional explosion like this to do it, more power to him. I hope for many more!!!

  2. By Brad Phillips:


    Thank you for your comment. You’re right that the manner in which these types of videos are received are in the eyes of the beholders – some will like them, others won’t. You’re also right that he served to bring attention to the pension reform issue in a manner that attracted media attention.

    But I’m surprised to hear Mr. Bost say that the public reaction was positive. A quick Google search found the following words to describe his performance: “meltdown, “rant,” “freak out,” “outburst,” and “tirade,” among others.

    To your point, I think that controlled anger can occasionally be an effective technique. But a complete loss of control rarely plays well, and I maintain that he looked more foolish than controlled in this clip.

    Thanks for commenting,

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