Archive for the ‘Media Training Disasters’ Category
2014 is off to a booming start—at least as it applies to media disasters.
Among other uncomfortable moments, this month’s list features a violent politician, a tone-deaf CEO, and a journalist who had a very exciting “breaking news” story to cover.
Without further ado, here are the five worst video media disasters of January 2014!
Number Five: Another Month, Another Drunk Rob Ford Video
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford needs help. His well-documented struggle with alcohol and some-time drug use has produced more than a few embarrassing moments, including one I named the worst media disaster of 2013. In this month’s entry, Mr. Ford was caught slurring his words in a Toronto restaurant, sounding something like a Jamaican version of Saturday Night Live’s Drunk Uncle.
Number Four: I’ll Sip Some Water During Your Water Outage
Gary Southern, the president of West Virginia’s Freedom Industries (the company responsible for contaminating the local water supply for 300,000 residents), delivered a dreadful first press conference. Although much of it was a mess, most of the media coverage focused on his unfortunate habit of sipping bottled water throughout the press conference—a strange message to send considering that hundreds of thousands were without water.
That wasn’t the only problem with his press conference. Click here to read about an odd moment in which a reporter demanded that Southern return to the microphones.
Number Three: We Have an Important “Breaking News” Story
MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell was having an important conversation about the NSA with a former congresswoman when she abruptly cut off the conversation to report some “breaking news.”
What was the breaking news? Well, this one you have to watch for yourself. Just try to do it without shaking your head.
Number Two: I’ll Break You In Half. Like a Boy.
When a reporter asked Staten Island Congressman Michael Grimm (R-NY) about an ethics scandal moments after the State of the Union, Grimm ended the interview abruptly. But after the reporter wrapped the piece—and Grimm presumably thought they were no longer on camera—he approached the reporter and issued a violent threat. (The fact that Grimm is a former FBI agent added a particularly menacing quality to his threat.)
The audio is tough to hear—but Grimm tells him:
“Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again, I’ll throw you off this fucking balcony…You’re not a man. I could break you in half.”
Grimm’s on-camera threat inspired other reporters to resurrect Grimm’s ethical charges. His threat—not the reporter’s fair question—put his scandal back into the headlines.
Number One: A Famous Film Director Flees The Stage
Michael Bay—the director and producer whose films include Armageddon, Transformers, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre—had a real-life horror moment during the opening seconds of a speech he was set to deliver at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas earlier this month.
When he hit the stage, his teleprompter wasn’t in the right place. And without a scriptwriter nearby, Bay was at a complete loss. So he stopped. And restarted. And stopped again. And then, when all else failed, he walked off the stage, accompanied only by a mumbled “I’m sorry.”
Bay has created a lot of cringe-worthy scenes in his career. But none have been this difficult to watch.
Learn from his mistake by clicking here to see five things Bay could have done to rescue that moment.
Bonus: Actress Jacqueline Bisset Accepts an Award
Actress Jacqueline Bisset waited 47 years to win her first Golden Globe, so it’s easy to understand why she became overwhelmed when finally awarded the coveted prize. But there’s a fine line between “excited” and “bizarre”—and her acceptance speech was so loopy that the anchors of Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” took notice.
The real version:
Saturday Night Live’s version:
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Tags: Andrea Mitchell, Gary Southern, Jacqueline Bisset, Justin Bieber, media training disaster, media training disasters, Michael Bay, Michael Grimm, rob ford
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In 2010, the award went to BP CEO Tony Hayward, who told cameras “I’d like my life back” after his company’s massive oil spill killed 11 workers.
In 2011, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) nabbed the award, for obvious reasons.
In 2012, Senate candidate Todd Akin (R-MO) became notorious for his claim that “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
Who will join their ranks this year? Read on…
Number Three: Lance Armstrong Rides Into Infamy
After years of denying doping allegations, suing former teammates, and bullying everyone who got in his way, cycling champion Lance Armstrong finally admitted what many people already knew: that he was a dishonest cheat.
Armstrong selected Oprah Winfrey for his on-air confessional, a lengthy interview aired on two consecutive nights. But Armstrong’s carefully parsed and evasive responses did more harm than good, leaving an indelible impression that he was still being untruthful (Oprah even asked whether he was a sociopath).
For example, Armstrong denied doping after 2005. But evidence presented by the USADA suggests he doped through 2009; if true, he lied during his admission.
One of his lowest moments came when discussing a phone call with Betsy Andreu, wife of cyclist Frankie Andreu. When recounting the phone call, Armstrong seemed to find it funny that although he admitted calling her “crazy” and “a bitch,” he didn’t call her “fat.” He grinned at his apparent wit, as if he was a mischievous kid who thought his cruelty was somehow funny.
In another stunning moment, he admitted that he couldn’t remember everyone he had sued because he had sued so many people.
A Survey USA poll taken shortly after the interview found that only 17 percent of respondents thought he was being completely honest. Those are probably the same people who tell pollsters the U.S. Congress is doing a good job.
In the clip below, Armstrong tells Oprah that he “deserves” to be allowed to compete again.
Number Two: Paula Deen Cooks Up Trouble
Paula Deen, the Food Network’s southern-cooking celebrity chef, found herself in hot water (or, more appropriate to her style of cooking, a vat of butter and lard) in June after The National Enquirer released details of racist remarks she’s made in the past.
During a legal deposition in a workplace discrimination suit, Deen admitted using the N-word in the past and making racist jokes.
But the most shocking moment may have come when she admitted that she wanted to emulate a wedding she had recently attended in which the wait staff was made up of “middle-aged black men.” That wedding, she said, evoked fond feelings for her of a Civil War-era “really southern plantation wedding.”
Deen made the mistake of waiting two days to apologize personally—and when she did, her apology (her first of several) was a mess—one of the worst I’ve ever seen.
A few days later, Ms. Deen sobbed through a bizarre, out-of-control, and uncomfortable interview with Matt Lauer on The Today Show.
With better crisis management, Deen could have come through this crisis less scarred. Yes, she would have paid a price—but I’m convinced that her poor crisis response contributed mightily to the magnitude of her disaster, which included the loss of her Food Network contract and several lucrative endorsement deals.
She may eventually redeem herself enough to make a good living again, but it’s unlikely she’ll ever reclaim her one-time success.
Number One: Rob Ford Cracks Up
It’s hard to imagine too many people keeping their jobs after the year Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has had.
In May, the U.S. website Gawker published a report claiming they had seen a video of Ford smoking crack. Ford denied those allegations for months, until finally admitting that he had, in fact, smoked crack.
But Ford didn’t simply admit smoking crack. He blamed reporters for his earlier lack of candor by claiming their questions months earlier had been asked using the wrong tense (“Do you smoke crack cocaine?” as opposed to “Have you ever smoked crack cocaine?”)
He also added a new page to the crisis communications playbook by casually blaming his drug use on being in a “drunken stupor.”
But Ford’s lowest moment—and the one I’m naming the worst video media disaster of the year—has to do with his casual mention of the amount of oral sex he receives at home.
During a press scrum, Ford denied charges that he had sexually harassed a former special assistant named Olivia Gondek. But the manner in which he did it was shockingly crass and unnecessarily graphic.
Ford capped off that ignominious day with yet another spousal indignity. He called a press conference to apologize for using such graphic language to describe his sex life. As he stood before reporters, his humiliated wife stood on the side of the stage, her eyes cast downward.
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Tags: Anthony Weiner, Lance Armstrong, media training disaster, media training disasters, Paula Deen, rob ford, Todd Akin, Tony Hayward
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Bob Newhart is one of my favorite comedians, so I was excited to come across this clip from his old show Newhart, on which he played a local television host and innkeeper.
In this clip from 1984, Newhart’s character, Dick Loudon, interviews retired Air Force Colonel Lloyd Menenger about his book, Up The Amazon.
The problem? He didn’t read his guest’s book prior to the interview.
I hope you enjoy this clip from the lighter side. Have a great weekend!
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Tags: Bob Newhart, Colonel Lloyd Menenger, comedy, Dick Loudon, Friday Classic Clips, Newhart
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I’ve been writing the “worst video media disaster” series since August 2010. This is the first one I’m embarrassed to publish.
The graphic nature of this post makes me uneasy—but personal discomfort aside, this month’s worst video media disaster wasn’t even a close call.
Toronto’s Rob Ford—the crack-smoking, drunk-driving, alcohol-abusing mayor of Canada’s largest city—used vulgar language to deny charges that he had sexually harassed a former special assistant named Olivia Gondek.
“Oh, and the last thing was Olivia Gondek. It says that I wanted to eat her pussy. Olivia Gondek. I’ve never said that in my life to her. I would never do that. I’m happily married, I’ve got more than enough to eat at home.”
It’s important to remember that no one asked the sue-happy mayor that specific question during the media scrum (he was asked about “allegations” in general). He brought the topic up himself and could have chosen to respond in any manner he wanted. The casual nature with which Ford made those stunningly disrespectful remarks show that he probably speaks with similar vulgarity on a regular basis.
A primary rule of crisis management is to never use the negative language of your accusers in your defense, since doing so only reminds the audience of the charge. In this case, he could have simply said: “The charges made regarding Olivia Gondek are false.”
Or, if he had even a single gentlemanly instinct and opted to respect his former aide’s privacy, he could have left her name out entirely: “There are reports out today about something I allegedly said to a former assistant. They are false.”
Ford capped off his ignominious day with yet another spousal indignity. He called a press conference to apologize for using such graphic language to describe his sex life. As he stood before reporters, his humiliated wife stood on the side of the stage, her eyes cast downward.
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Tags: media training disaster, Olivia Gondek, rob ford
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Twenty years ago tomorrow—on November 9, 1993—Vice President Al Gore and billionaire businessman Ross Perot appeared on CNN’s Larry King Live to debate the merits of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). More than 16 million people tuned in to the high-profile debate.
NAFTA was a controversial piece of legislation that created a trade bloc among three nations—the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. It narrowly passed the U.S. House one week after this debate and went into force less than two months later.
Whatever your views on NAFTA, one thing is clear: Al Gore crushed Ross Perot in the debate.
If you remember this debate at all, it’s probably for Mr. Perot’s demeanor. Time Magazine described the difference between the two men thusly: “A calm, suave Gore literally towered over a snide and snarling Perot.” The Independent declared that “by any objective yardstick, a cool, slightly condescending Mr Gore won out over a petulant Mr Perot, by a mile.”
To get a sense of Perot’s temperament, watch about a minute of this clip, beginning at the 2:25 mark. Keep in mind that he was speaking to a sitting U.S. vice president at the time.
Mr. Gore won this debate for one reason: He found his opponent’s Achilles’ heel—Perot’s temper—and exploited it at every opportunity. Perot, unaccustomed to being interrupted and hectored, predictably bristled, snapping at Gore to “give me your whole mind” and asking him “Are you going to listen? Work on it.”
According to journalist James Fallows, writing in The Atlantic:
“There was genius, or at least cunning, in the decision to prepare Gore to push Perot’s flaw to the breaking point — to stake the debate on Gore’s ability to make Perot lose his temper. ‘If you’re dealing with a hothead, you make him mad,’ Greg Simon, a longtime Gore aide who was then Gore’s domestic-policy adviser and part of the team that prepared him for the debate, told me. ‘You’ve got a crazy man, you make him show it.’”
“Their starting point was that Perot was like an overbearing grandfather. ‘He’ll be fine as long as everybody sits there and listens to him,’ Simon said. ‘But if you start interrupting him, he’ll lose it.’ Perot, a graduate of the Naval Academy, was extremely proud of his image as a self-sacrificing patriot. Several aides reasoned that if Gore could find a way to gibe at or raise doubts about that reputation, Perot would be unable to contain himself. Perot had virtually no experience with being treated disrespectfully.”
How ineffective was Perot’s peevishness? Before the debate, only 34 percent of Americans supported NAFTA. Immediately following the debate, support surged to 57 percent.
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Tags: al gore, cnn, Friday Classic Clips, James Fallows, Larry King Live, NAFTA, ross perot
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A reader sent me a link to a recent CBC Radio interview with Officer Murray Swift, a Canadian border guard tasked with conducting sensitivity training for his fellow officers.
Officer Swift’s interview with Peter Oldring of “This Is That” was jaw-dropping. In rather stunning fashion, Swift bullied the host throughout the entire interview, leading to a final answer that literally left me with my mouth agape.
I couldn’t wait to write about this media disaster, which surely would have landed on my top ten media disasters list for the year. But after exploring a bit further, I learned that “This Is That”—which I wasn’t familiar with—is a satirical program. (Thank goodness I did my due diligence!)
That normally would have killed this blog post. But the interview is just too great not to post here. So enjoy today’s post from the lighter side, even if “Officer Swift” is merely the product of a clever host’s imagination.
You can listen to the clip here.
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Tags: CBC, comedy, Officer Murray Swift, This Is That
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National polling makes clear that the Republican Party—and House Republicans, in particular—are getting the majority of blame for the government shutdown.
More pundits than not agree that Republicans are in a precarious political position. The consensus of the mainstream media and much of the public is that Democrats are far likelier to “win” the political stare down between the two parties.
Assuming, for a moment, that all of that is true, Democrats have to be careful not to overplay their hand or commit the types of tone-deaf gaffes that can begin to turn the political narrative.
Enter Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who was asked a straightforward question earlier this afternoon about Republican efforts to restore specific programs one at a time. One such proposal would restore funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which has halted new clinical trials.
CNN’s Dana Bash: “If you can help one child who has cancer, why wouldn’t you do it?”
Harry Reid: “Why would we want to do that? I have 1,100 people at Nellis Air Force Base that are sitting home. They have a few problems of their own.”
Let’s give Mr. Reid the benefit of the doubt here, that the “that” in his response referred to accepting a piecemeal approach to reopening government, not children with cancer.
Whether you accept that explanation or not, the bottom line remains the same. Reid’s answer should have been a slam dunk—and it would have been, had he remembered a critical communications maxim: always align your response with the victims. He should have said something such as:
“Hearing these stories about children with cancer going untreated is infuriating—and that’s exactly why we keep saying we need to end this shutdown now. And it’s not just kids with cancer who are suffering: there are many single mothers who don’t know how to feed their kids without the WIC program, there are adults who are being denied critical medical care, and there are many families who are fearing what life means for them without a paycheck. The moment the House speaker puts a clean continuing resolution on the floor without gimmicks, we will pass it.”
Instead, Reid’s answer evoked memories of Michael Dukakis’s heartlessness when he was asked during a 1988 presidential debate whether he would support the death penalty if his wife was raped and murdered. (“No I don’t, Bernard,” he responded without a hint of emotion.)
Reid’s sound bite is unlikely to turn the political tide, even if it generates a lot of chatter on cable news and social media. But during such a high-stakes moment, politicians on both sides should take particular care to avoid committing these types of dreaded seven-second strays.
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Tags: Harry Reid, media training disaster
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Clothing designer Kenneth Cole has a nasty little habit of newsjacking world events for his own benefit.
You may remember that he tried to get publicity for his new clothing line in 2011 by using the Egyptian Revolution that killed more than 800 people as a marketing hook:
At the time, Cole issued an apology:
“I apologize to everyone who was offended by my insensitive tweet about the situation in Egypt. I’ve dedicated my life to raising awareness about serious social issues, and in hindsight my attempt at humor regarding a nation liberating themselves against oppression was poorly timed and absolutely inappropriate.”
It turns out he didn’t mean his apology. Earlier this month, Cole repeated the stunt as the threat of war in Syria loomed:
I can’t even imagine how families with children serving in the armed forces must have reacted to Cole’s callous tweet. When faced with the inevitable social media backlash this time, however, Cole turned defiant.
Let’s be clear here: His insistence that he was trying to “provoke a dialogue about important issues” is either knowingly false or downright delusional. His tweets had nothing to do with substance. It appears that they were both intended to promote his products.
Even the phoned-in quality of the video reinforces his flip attitude. This controversy is worth addressing, but barely, the overly casual aesthetic seems to say.
But at least he kind of apologized, right?
Nope. According to an upcoming interview in the October issue of Details Magazine (as reported by The Huffington Post), Cole said:
“If you look at lists of the biggest Twitter gaffes ever, we’re always one through five. But our stock went up that day, our e-commerce business was better, the business at every one of our stores improved, and I picked up 3,000 new followers on Twitter. So on what criteria is this a gaffe?”
“Within hours, I tweeted an explanation, which had to be vetted by lawyers,” he added. “I’m not even sure I used the words I’m sorry — because I wasn’t sorry.”
Got that? Cole apologized after the 2011 incident, but he didn’t mean it. And now he’s claiming he was just trying to “provoke a conversation” when it seems clear that profit was his motive.
All of this makes Cole the most insidious kind of marketer—one that uses tragedy and war to sell products. And based on his shifting explanations, it appears to make him a dishonest one, too.
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Tags: crisis communications, Kenneth Cole, media training disaster, Twitter
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