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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  • 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.

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