June 2012: The Five Worst Video Media Disasters

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on June 29, 2012 – 6:04 AM

As we close out the first half of 2012, I’m happy to report that public figures didn’t let us down.

As usual, they committed a series of gaffes ranging from the bizarre…to the rude…to the downright cringeworthy.

So without any further ado, here’s this month’s collection, featuring a deceased spouse, some bad reporting, and an aggressive heckler.

And if you missed the ten worst media disasters of 2011, click here to catch up.

5. Hey, Martin Short: How’s Your Dead Wife Doing?

Today Show host Kathie Lee Gifford committed an embarrassing gaffe when she asked comic Martin Short how his wife was doing. The problem? Mr. Short’s wife, Nancy, died two years ago.

Two things are noteworthy about this gaffe. First, Ms. Giffords’ question suggested a more intimate friendship with the Shorts than she clearly had. Second, note Mr. Short’s incredibly graceful reaction. His poise during an uncomfortable moment only made him look better. 

Note: Although this occurred at the end of May, it missed the deadline for last month’s list.


4. CNN and Fox News Blow Supreme Court Call

In their zeal to report the Supreme Court’s decision regarding the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care law, two of the biggest cable news channels blew the story. Both incorrectly reported that the individual mandate was dead.

Given the history of blown media calls—which include “Gabrielle Giffords dead,” “Gore wins Florida,” and “Dewey beats Truman,” you’d think the networks would know better than to rush information to air.


3. British Member of Parliament Gets Pummeled By Interviewer

This was a classic interview with an “out of the loop” spokesperson.

Chloe Smith is a young (30-year-old) conservative member of the British Parliament who serves as the Economic Secretary to the Treasury. When she appeared on Jeremy Paxman’s Newsnight to discuss the decision to delay a planned increase in fuel taxes, she failed to answer even the most direct questions.

Many of Ms. Smith’s colleagues in Parliament were furious that her boss who made the decision, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, sent her to do the show instead of doing it himself. Cover your eyes when you watch this one.

h/t @simonbriault


2. Blogger Heckles President Obama’s Immigration Speech

Neil Munro, a blogger for Tucker Carlson’s conservative website The Daily Caller, heckled President Obama during his immigration speech by shouting a confrontational question at him: “Why are you favoring immigrant workers over Americans?”  

Mr. Munro later claimed that he thought the President was finished with his statement and simply mistimed his question. But no other reporters were similarly confused, and some said afterwards that it was clear the President was in mid-speech.

Tucker Carlson (with whom I worked at CNN and personally like) also belongs on this list for offering a spirited defense of Munro’s uncivilized behavior.


1. President Obama Says The Private Sector Is “Doing Fine”

While speaking about the economy at a press conference earlier this month, President Obama said, “The private sector is doing fine.” By some measurements, that may be true. But by making such a declarative statement, he handed his opponents a perfect opportunity to label him as “out of touch.” Hours later, he walked his comment back.

His gaffe was reminiscent of Mitt Romney’s “I like being able to fire people” gaffe. Neither sentence will likely determine the outcome of November’s election. But expect to see Republicans use President Obama’s gaffe against him—and probably with some success— in hundreds of ads this fall.


Bonus Video 1: Candidate Covers His Bases…In an Unusual Way

One week before the Supreme Court issued its verdict on “Obamacare,” Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock pre-taped his response to the outcome.

Of course, he didn’t know what the outcome would be, so he pre-taped a response for four different options. That may not be terribly unusual – but the fact that all four videos made their way onto the web was.

Here’s Stephen Colbert’s rather hilarious take.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Colbert News Alert – Obamacare Supreme Court Ruling – Richard Mourdock’s Responses
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive


Bonus Video 2: Honeywell Security Rips Microphone Away From Reporter

Mike Elk, a reporter with the progressive In These Times, tried to ask Honeywell CEO Dave Cote a question during an event at the U.S. Capitol. During his question, a burly security person ripped the microphone out of Elk’s hands, which turned a mere adversarial question into a viral video sensation.

Later that day, Mr. Elk accused Honeywell’s “external communications director Rob Ferris of barricading him in a room for several minutes,” according to PR Daily.

Had Mr. Cote simply answered the question (heck, even if he had dodged it), this would have been a non-story.

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Comments (4)

  1. By Bob LeDrew:

    Man. I wish that in Canada and the US we had interviewers as vociferous as Jeremy Paxman. The sad truth is that most of the time, elected officials can get away with performances like Chloe Smith’s because they’re not challenged effectively.

    But you’re right; it was painful to watch.

  2. By Brad Phillips:


    I completely agree. I’d say 90-some percent of interviewers allow guests to spout their talking points without challenging them. It’s the reason I can barely watch cable news anymore. One exception to the rule? CNN’s Soledad O’Brien. She listens carefully to every response and forms thoughtful follow ups. Have become a fan.


  3. By James:

    While it was inevitable that the Romney campaign would make hay with an ad highlighting the president’s “the private sector is doing fine” gaffe, what has astounded me is a subsequent Obama campaign ad that attempts to bolster the president’s economic achievements while decrying that Romney is spending millions on “attack ads.” In a shot during that Obama ad, a pic of Romney is juxtaposed next to a screen shot of Romney’s own ad, displaying a picture of the president and the clearly visible caption “Private sector is doing fine.” Fine if you want to highlight that the challenger is spending money on ads (like the incumbent ISN’T), but it astounds me that it actually depicts the single sentence that is the focus of the Romney ad. Politics aside, if you’re trying desperately to walk back that statement from your candidate, would you use a screen shot of the challenger’s ad that highlights the very statement you’re trying to walk back?

  4. By Brad Phillips:


    I wasn’t aware of that – VERY interesting choice by the Obama campaign, indeed. All I can surmise is that after continued deliberation, they’ve decided to lean into the statement and own it instead of walking it back. Thanks for making me aware of that – as an east coaster in a non-swing state, we don’t get all of these ads on television out here!

    Thanks for stopping by,

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