The 10 Worst Media Gaffes Of Election 2012

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on October 28, 2012 – 12:10 am

Next Tuesday, millions of Americans will head to their local polling places to select the next President of the United States.

It’s about time. We’ve been subjected to a two-year campaign in which the candidates have been on our television screens for hundreds of hours. Most of those hours have been unremarkable—but a few memorable moments turned into PR disasters for the campaigns.

This post will highlight the ten worst media disasters of the 2012 presidential campaign.

You will notice that there are more Republicans than Democrats on my list. That’s not due to political bias, but simple math: There were eight Republicans competing for their party’s nomination, while President Obama ran unopposed. Republicans debated one another during the primaries almost two dozen times; President Obama debated no one on the Democratic side.

Therefore, Republicans were much more visible during much of the campaign, occupied a lot of the media airtime and headlines, and had more opportunities to make mistakes. For that reason only, you’ll see more of them on this list.


10. Newt Gingrich: I’m Going To Be The Nominee

Last December, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich made a confident declaration:

“I’m going to be the nominee. It’s very hard not to look at the recent polls and think that the odds are very high I’m going to be the nominee.”


Mr. Gingrich’s time at the top of the polls quickly ended after he declared his intent to build a moon colony by 2020. He ended up carrying only one state outside his native Georgia.


9. Michele Bachmann’s Dubious “Mental Retardation” Claim

Michele Bachmann opposes a mandated HPV vaccine, which helps protects young women from cervical cancer. But she went a step too far when she shared an anecdote about a woman on the campaign trail who said her daughter “suffers from mental retardation” as a result of getting the vaccine.

Rep. Bachmann later defended herself by claiming she was just passing along a story without judging it as true. But her dubious medical claim put at risk people who decided to forgo the vaccine as a result of her misinformation.


8. President Obama: “The Private Sector is Doing Fine”

At a press conference in June, President Obama uttered a phrase he came to regret.

While speaking about the economy, he said, “The private sector is doing fine.” By some measurements, that may have been true. But by making such a declarative statement, he handed his opponents a perfect opportunity to paint him as an out-of-touch politician who was disconnected from economic reality.


7.  Herman Cain’s “Rolling Disclosures”

When faced with allegations of sexual harassment last November, Herman Cain responded in the worst possible way: with a series of “rolling disclosures.”

“Rolling disclosures” occur when a spokesperson fails to disclose everything they know from the start, opting instead to drip out information slowly. As a result, every time the spokesperson reveals a new detail—no matter how trivial—new oxygen gets pumped into the story. That approach has the net effect of extending the shelf life of the crisis while diminishing the believability of each new iteration of the story.

Herman Cain’s time at the top of the polls ended due not to the allegations—but his handling of the allegations.


6. Mitt Romney’s $10,000 Bet

When Mitt Romney turned to Republican primary opponent Rick Perry and challenged him to a “$10,000 bet,” he reinforced his image as an out-of-touch rich guy. It wasn’t just his $10,000 bet. He also told one audience that his wife drives two Cadillacs, told another that they should just borrow money from their parents if they’re short of cash, and told a radio host that although he doesn’t watch NASCAR, he’s friends with some team owners.



5. President Obama’s “You Didn’t Build That” and Mitt Romney’s “I Like Being Able to Fire People”

I’m judging both of these as equal gaffes—mostly because both lines were taken out of context by political opponents.

Opponents accused President Obama of saying that small business owners didn’t build their own businesses but that government did. (In reality, he appeared to be saying that business owners didn’t build the roads that led customers to their doors or the Internet they use to conduct business.)

Opponents accused Governor Romney of saying that he liked to fire people. (In reality, he appeared to be saying that he liked being able to cancel policies from bad health insurance companies.)

Regardless, both lines were damaging to both candidates. And it proves that in this media age, you can’t afford to commit the deadly seven-second stray.


4. Herman Cain Draws a Blank on Libya

We’ve all had that terrible moment when we’ve gone completely blank. Unfortunately for Herman Cain, his moment was caught on video. When he was asked why he opposed President Obama’s policy in Libya, let’s just say he struggled to come up with an answer.


3. Mitt Romney’s Secret “47 Percent” Video

At a May fundraiser, Mitt Romney shared his views of President Obama’s voters in a secretly filmed video that was later leaked to the liberal Mother Jones Magazine. In the video, Mr. Romney, said:

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it….My job is not to worry about those people.”


The video was a disaster for Mr. Romney’s campaign, taking them far off their desired messages just two months before Election Day.


2. President Obama’s First Debate

In terms of sheer political impact, little comes close to President Obama’s lackluster performance in the first presidential debate. As Mitt Romney attacked his record, Mr. Obama responded without any discernible passion, instead making meandering points full of “uhhhs.”

As a result, Governor Romney delivered a humiliating thumping to the President, who sank in the polls almost immediately. If President Obama loses next Tuesday, historians will cite this debate as a major reason why. If he wins, it will be a lot closer than it otherwise could have been.

This media disaster ranks number two for only one reason: This list is intended to look at short media moments, not entire debates. But this debate was just too impactful to ignore.

The video below is an edited compilation of some of Mr. Obama’s many “uhhhs.” It’s emblematic of how hesitant and unfocused he was throughout the debate.


1. Rick Perry’s Infamous “Oops”

During a Republican primary debate in November 2011, Texas Governor Rick Perry confidently declared that he would eliminate three government agencies. Unfortunately for him, he promptly forgot what they were.

For 47 painful seconds, Mr. Perry tried to recall the third agency he would eliminate. He finally gave up, shrugged his shoulders, and lamely said, “oops.” That one moment likely sank any remaining chances Mr. Perry had of winning the nomination. In terms of an immediate and spectacular self-immolation, nothing came even close.


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April 2012: The Five Worst Video Media Disasters

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on April 30, 2012 – 6:10 am

Racial epithets, communists, anti-woman sentiment, and uninhibited profanity.

The most recent episode of Mad Men, you say? Nope. That nonsense didn’t end in 1968.

Without further ado, here are the five worst video media disasters of April 2012!

5. Fox Commentator Drops The F-Bomb On The Air

It’s not so much that liberal commentator Bob Beckel said the f-word with gusto on Sean Hannity’s Fox News Channel show. It’s his reaction that makes this clip priceless. Mr. Beckel didn’t know they were on the air – and his tonal shift from defiance to finger-pointing to contrition unfolds in a couple of highly amusing minutes. 

Although this clip only ranks at number five on the list, it’s my personal favorite of the month.


4. Washington, DC Councilman Marion Barry Blasts Asian Business Owners

Former DC mayor and current councilman Marion Barry slammed Asians when he said: “We got to do something about these Asians coming in and opening up businesses and dirty shops. They ought to go.”

Well, at least it’s not like he’s the chair of DC’s Committee on Aging and Community Affairs, which is responsible for Asian issues, right? Oh, wait, he is? Wow. That’s quite a gaffe.


3. Look Out, Joseph McCarthy. You Have Competition.

Did you know that there are between 78 to 81 Democratic members of the House of Representatives who are members of the Communist Party?

Nope, that’s not a headline from 1954. That McCarthy-esque statement came from Rep. Allen West (R-FL) during a town hall meeting earlier this month, evoking the worst days from the Red Scare.

I’m just waiting for someone to ask him, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”


2. Football Coach Pays Players to Injure Competitors

In a remarkably violent and vulgar audio tape, former New Orleans Saints Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams was caught offering players money to injure members of the opposing team. About one player, he said:

“We’ve got to do everything in the world to make sure we kill Frank Gore’s head…we want his head sideways.” About another player, he said, “we fuckin’ take out that outside ACL.”


Mr. Williams’ disgusting rant earned him an indefinite suspension from the NFL. May he never spend another moment on a professional, college, high school, or youth football field.


1. Hilary Rosen Slams Ann Romney

Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen handed Republicans a giant cudgel when she said that Ann Romney “has never worked a day in her life.” Many women were genuinely offended at Ms. Rosen’s assertion, especially given that Ms. Romney was a stay at home mother who raised five boys.

Ms. Rosen should have known better, especially since these types of comments have drawn scrutiny in the past. In 1992, Hillary Clinton caused her husband’s campaign unnecessary heartache when she declared that, “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession.”

Ms. Rosen’s comment, which helped Republicans neutralize the “war on women,” quickly drew condemnation from within her own party. Within days, President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Biden, White House Spokesman Jay Carney, and Campaign Communications Director David Axelrod all condemned her remark. 


Bonus 1: Woman-Lover Herman Cain Says Men Are Better Informed

Why do men support Mitt Romney more than women? It’s because men are better informed, according to former GOP frontrunner Herman Cain. Is it me, or can you not wait for this “war on women” to end?


Bonus 2: West Virginia Senate Candidate Compares Smoking Ban to Hitler

John Raese (R-WV) thinks that a smoking ban is the “same thing” as Adolf Hitler’s policy that forced Jews to wear a Star of David so they could be more easily identified. A hint to all politicians and pundits: the Hitler/Nazi analogy rarely works.


Bonus 3: CNN Reporter Says F-Word And N-word Live On Air

While quoting a Facebook page of an Oklahoma criminal suspect, veteran CNN Correspondent Susan Candiotti used a rather vulgar phrase. I understand why she wouldn’t want to dilute the stark language by replacing epithets with euphemisms. But on CNN, which is blared in businesses, restaurants, airport terminals and hotel lobbies across the country? Bad idea, and Ms. Candiotti should have known better. 


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March 2012: The Five Worst Video Media Disasters

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on March 30, 2012 – 6:12 am

What do sluts, hoodies, and a popular children’s toy have in common?

If you said that they all made it onto March’s month-end media disasters list, you’d be right. (If you came up with any other answer to that question, you’re probably a bit twisted.)

Without any further ado, here are the five worst video media disasters of March, along with two fun bonus disasters. Here we go!

5. Singer Sings “Fuck You” At Presidential Fundraiser

I like singer Cee Lo Green. He’s a talented musician, and he’s a fun coach on NBC’s The Voice. But he exercised lousy judgment when he entertained a crowd at an Obama fundraiser by singing the uncensored version of his hit song “Fuck You.” If that wasn’t enough, he also gave the crowd the middle finger.

For the record, I own that song. I like that song. But context matters, and creating an unnecessary distraction for the President made the fundraiser more about Cee Lo than the President’s re-election bid. And by the way, National Review editor Rich Lowry never heard of Cee Lo? Come on, Rich, you’re just a few years older than me. Get with the program!



4. President Obama Gets Caught On An Open Mic

At a meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, President Obama got caught on an open microphone:

President Obama: “On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this can be solved, but it’s important for him to give me space.” 

President Medvedev: “Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you … .”

Obama: “This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.”

Medvedev: “I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.”


Sure, most people understand that this type of interaction is common in international diplomacy. But by making his comment with microphones present, President Obama not only gave his Republican rivals an opening, but reportedly put Poland on edge. Plus, the President appeared a bit over-confident about his chances for re-election. He should know better than to make such comments in the presence of microphones.  


3. Mitt Romney Advisor Compares Him To An “Etch a Sketch”

When asked whether Mitt Romney would shift toward the ideological center during the general election, top advisor Eric Fehrnstrom answered: “Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch a Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.”

Given that Mr. Romney’s professed commitment to conservative values is already viewed with deep suspicion by many conservative voters, few gaffes could hurt him more. His opponents – Republican and Democrat alike – pounced on the mistake. Expect this gaffe to stick with Gov. Romney through the rest of the campaign.

Click here to read the full story, “Why Mitt Romney’s ‘Etch a Sketch’ Moment Matters.”

2. A Gun Didn’t Kill Trayvon Martin – His Jacket Did

Trayvon Martin, an African American teenager, was gunned down last month by George Zimmerman, a man of mixed ethnicity (Hispanic and white). Mr. Martin’s death has spawned national outrage and a heated discussion about race, particularly because many signs point to Martin’s innocence – and the shooter’s guilt (Zimmerman has not been jailed).

But Fox News Host Geraldo Rivera cast blame somewhere else – at Martin’s clothing. “The hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was,” Rivera argued. In making that argument, Rivera unfairly shifted the burden of blame away from Martin’s killer – and onto the victim and his parents. 


1. Rush Limbaugh’s “Slut” Attack

Bombastic right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh isn’t known for mincing words – but his vicious attack on Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke was extreme even by his own loose standards. 

Ms. Fluke testified before a Democratic House panel that Georgetown – a Jesuit university – should be required to provide contraceptive care as part of its health insurance plan. Mr. Limbaugh responded by asking if she was a “slut” or “prostitute” who is “having so much sex, it’s amazing she can still walk.”

He didn’t seem to understand that the cost of a woman’s contraceptive care doesn’t correlate directly to the amount of sex she’s having; nor did he factor in the many health reasons women use contraception. But his advertisers understood, and they fled his show in record numbers.

Although Limbaugh made these comments at the end of last month, the controversy reached its peak in March.


Bonus Disaster #1: Colorado Governor Introduces His Lieutenant Governor As a What?!?

This one speaks for itself. Colorado’s Democratic Governor, John Hickenlooper, has a bit of a Freudian slip when introducing his Lieutenant.


Bonus Disaster #2: Herman Cain Releases a New Video

What better way to get attention for your new issues organization than by releasing an ad that murders a rabbit? Or by featuring a girl who should be cast in the sequel to The Shining? Or by casting a man who looks creepily into the camera?

Did you miss the 10 worst media disasters of 2011? Click here to catch up.

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My Political Punditry In 2011: How Did I Do?

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on December 21, 2011 – 6:12 am

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I engage in a fair bit of political punditry.

There’s nothing even remotely unique about being a pundit – but there is something unique about a pundit who actually grades himself on his successes and failures.

Since I regularly grade public figures and try to hold others accountable, I felt it was only fair to turn the pen on myself and see how I did. So I spent an evening going through all of the political posts I wrote during 2011.

On the whole, I got it right more than I got it wrong. But it was far from a perfect year, and this article will summarize my hits and misses.

RIGHT: Mitt Romney’s Mandate (March 8, 2011): Back in March, I wrote that Mitt Romney should disown his Massachusetts health care plan instead of continuing to defend it. Gov. Romney has continued to defend his plan – and, like when Hillary Clinton continued to defend the Iraq war in 2007, his party’s base has not forgiven his apostasy. Although he might end up getting the nomination, he’s lucky – had Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, John Thune, Mitch Daniels, or Haley Barbour gotten in the race, he might have been in real trouble.

WRONG: Chris Christie’s Storm (January 3, 2011): As a major snow storm blanketed his state, paralyzing roadways and knocking out electrical lines, I wrote that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would pay a political price for vacationing in Disney World instead of staying home. His approval ratings actually went up. Didn’t see that one coming.

RIGHT: Rick Perry’s Gaffes (June 29, 2011): Well before the infamous debate gaffes that likely doomed his campaign, I accurately predicted that Rick Perry would get into trouble with words. I wrote, “Perry is not a particularly strong extemporaneous speaker…he could be prone to some major gaffes that take his campaign far off message.”

RIGHT: Donald Trump Takes The Lead (April 18, 2011): When circus sideshow Donald Trump was polling as the top choice in the Republican field, I reminded readers that his “first-place showing at this point means little” and compared him to Howard Dean, Ross Perot, and Pat Buchanan – all of whom once briefly flirted with the lead.

I have to admit I missed the Ron Paul surge. Many readers didn't make the same mistake.

WRONG: Ron Paul’s Support (September 7, 2011): Throughout the campaign, I’ve consistently missed the mark on the breadth of Rep. Ron Paul’s support. In fairness, he had a similarly enthusiastic base in 2008 that yielded him few delegates. But this year seems different, and he’s a legitimate threat to finish near the top in Iowa next month.

RIGHT: Anthony Weiner’s Crisis Response (June 1, 2011): In the earliest hours of the Anthony Weiner scandal, long before we knew the lurid details, I wrote: “Mr. Weiner has been married for less than a year…I can’t help but thinking that his decisions are being influenced, at least in part, by those concerns.”

WRONG: Tim Pawlenty’s Mild Debate Response (June 13, 2011): I praised GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty for refusing to go after Mitt Romney on “Obamneycare.” Turns out most pundits cited that moment as the reason he had to drop out of the race. As Rick Perry might say, “Oops.”

RIGHT: Herman Cain’s Bubble Will Burst (October 18, 2011): When Herman Cain was leading the polls (and before his alleged sexual misconduct came to light), I wrote: “Based on his performance thus far, it’s hard to see how he uses his recent momentum to win the White House.” In hindsight, that one seems rather obvious.

Newt Gingrich represents both my greatest failure and success as a pundit this year. Photo: Gage Skidmore

MY BIGGEST MISTAKE: Newt Gingrich’s Campaign Suicide (May 31, 2011): After Speaker Gingrich blasted fellow Republican Paul Ryan’s “right-wing social engineering” during the first week of his campaign in May, I wrote that “Gingrich is still in the race. But my odds of winning the Republican nomination are probably better.” I should have known better than to declare a campaign over, and hope to avoid repeating that mistake in the future. My biggest mistake of the year.

MY BIGGEST SUCCESS: Newt Gingrich’s Impending Surge (September 12, 2011): When Newt Gingrich was polling just five percent in mid-September, I wrote: “If Mr. Perry falters, someone else is likely to emerge to threaten Mr. Romney for the nomination – and if Mr. Gingrich continues to perform this well, he could emerge as that person.” My biggest success of the year.

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The Ten Worst Media Disasters Of 2011

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on December 14, 2011 – 6:02 am

The Mr. Media Training Blog is pleased to announce the ten worst on-camera media gaffes of 2011!

This year’s winners include a politician who lost his place, a country singer who lost his job, and a celebrity who lost his show.

The media spokespersons were selected based on the impact of their gaffes. All ten people reinforced an existing narrative about their lack of preparedness for office, their lack of discipline, or their lack of compassion.

Here, without further ado, are the ten worst video media disasters of 2011!

#10: Hank Williams, Jr. Compares President Obama to Adolf Hitler

In October, country singer Hank Williams, Jr. was fired up during an appearance on Fox and Friends. While reflecting on a golf match between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, Mr. Williams quipped, “It would be like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu.” The Fox hosts looked shocked and distanced themselves from his statement; ESPN promptly dropped his theme song as its Monday Night Football opener.

#9: Sarah Palin’s “Blood Libel”

Months before Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was almost killed in Tucson, Former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) released an infamous “crosshairs map,” which placed a target over Ms. Giffords’  congressional district. In the days after the shooting, Ms. Palin was blamed, in part, for the shooting.

Ms. Palin was upset by media stories connecting her to the crime; she was right that there was no evidence that the shooter had even seen her map. But she over-reacted, taking to the airwaves to blame the media for committing "blood libel." That term is most commonly used as an anti-Semitic slur referring to Jews murdering Christians.

Her poll numbers immediately plummeted with Independents and Republicans (Fox News head Roger Ailes was also said to be infuriated by her response). Instead of using the moment to expand her base by issuing a gracious statement, Ms. Palin narrowed it, leading many political prognosticators to declare her 2012 hopes dead.

#8: NPR Fundraiser Ron Schiller Blasts The Tea Party

National Public Radio’s chief fundraiser, Ron Schiller, went to lunch with a couple of men claiming to be Muslim donors in March. It turned out they were Republican activists with a hidden camera. During the lunch, Mr. Schiller called members of the Tea Party, “seriously racist, racist people,” among other things.

That he made those comments was bad enough; that he made them while NPR was already in the midst of a heated debate about its public funding was flabbergasting. His comments not only led to his immediate resignation, but the resignation of NPR’s CEO, as well. The House of Representatives voted to strip NPR of its federal funding. Fortunately for NPR, the Senate prevented that from happening – for now. 

#7: Rupert Murdoch Channels Tony Hayward

While testifying before the British Parliament in July, News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch was asked whether he accepted the ultimate responsibility for his company’s phone hacking scandal. Not only did he say “no,” but he delivered his answer without even a hint of humility. So much for Harry Truman’s axiom, “The buck stops here.”

By delivering such an indifferent answer, he gave former BP Executive Tony “I’d like my life back” Hayward competition as the world’s most clueless corporate executive.

#6: Rick Perry’s “Oops” Moment

During a Republican presidential debate in November, Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) confidently declared he would eliminate three government agencies – and promptly forgot what they were. For 47 painful seconds, Mr. Perry tried to recall the third agency he would eliminate. He finally gave up, shrugged his shoulders, and lamely said, “oops.” That one moment likely sank any remaining chances Mr. Perry had of winning the nomination.


#5: President Obama Jokes About Joblessness

With the nation’s unemployment rate above nine percent and millions of Americans desperate to find work, President Obama cracked a joke in June that few people found funny.

When a questioner asked a serious question about the nation’s inefficient permitting process, Mr. Obama cracked wise about his two-year-old pledge to create shovel-ready jobs, joking, “Shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected.” Many people blasted the President for his political tin ear, which has gotten him in trouble before (see earlier gaffes related to a San Francisco fundraiser, Hillary Clinton, and the Special Olympics).


#4: Charlie Sheen’s Downward Spiral

There’s little funny about addiction, and Charlie Sheen’s dangerous spiral was sad to watch (see “Why #Winning Isn’t Funny”). Sheen stayed in the news for months, but it was his out-of-touch interview with sycophantic radio host Alex Jones in February that led to his dismissal from his top-rated sitcom, Two and a Half Men.

In that interview, Sheen made vaguely anti-Semitic comments about “Men”” creator Chuck Lorre, called Alcoholics Anonymous a “bootleg cult,” and labeled Thomas Jefferson a “pussy.” He topped off his tirade by threatening to “murder” those who attack his family.

#3: The Herman Cain Affair

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain was caught flat-footed in October when numerous women accused him of sexual harassment (another woman later asserted she had had a long-term sexual affair with him). Mr. Cain changed his story on an almost-hourly basis, even arguing that he didn’t understand an earlier question that had used the word “settlement” instead of “agreement.” 

Mr. Cain dropped out of the race in December, maintaining his innocence to a public that no longer believed him.

Politico compiled a partial chronology of Mr. Cain’s rolling disclosures in the early days of the crisis.

#2: (Alleged) Penn State Child Rapist Jerry Sandusky Speaks

When former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky spoke to NBC’s Bob Costas in November about horrific allegations that he raped numerous boys, no one was prepared for his jaw-dropping answer to this direct question: “Are you sexually attracted to young boys?” It took 16 seconds for Sandusky to say “no.” Instead, he began by saying how much he “enjoyed” young people and loves to be around them. Sandusky’s alleged actions, combined with Penn State’s ineffectual response, led to the firings of the University president and legendary football coach Joe Paterno.

(Fast forward to 7:15)


#1: Anthony Weiner’s Twitter Scandal

Self-immolations rarely come in more spectacular fashion than when Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) was caught tweeting naughty photos to strangers in June. His approach to crisis management was to: 

  1. 1. Deny the charges and claim his Twitter account had been hacked.
  2. 2. Call a reporter a “jackass.”
  3. 3. Say that although he hadn’t sent the photos, he couldn’t rule out “with certitude” that the erect undies shot was of him.
  4. 4. Hold a tearful press conference to admit he had tweeted the photos himself but refusing to resign.
  5. 5. Watch helplessly as a nude photo of his…ahem…member…was released.
  6. 6. See his private news about his wife’s early-term pregnancy announced to the world.
  7. 7. See yet another batch of sexy gym photos released.
  8. 8. Resign in shame.

One of Mr. Weiner’s worst moments (there were many) was captured during a CNN interview, in which he sanctimoniously blasted reporters. After Mr. Weiner resigned, a Republican won his seat, costing Democrats a critical seat in the House of Representatives.


Click here to listen to Brad Phillips discussing this top ten list on Washington D.C.’s top-rated radio station, WTOP-FM.

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Herman Cain: You Make The Call (Take Our Poll)

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on December 4, 2011 – 2:17 pm

Republican candidate Herman Cain dropped out of the presidential race on Saturday after facing charges of infidelity and sexual harassment.

I’d like to ask you to help me with a thought experiment.

Imagine you were Herman Cain’s campaign manager. Right before he entered the race, you asked him to disclose any potential vulnerabilities to you. He admitted to you that he had an affair and that the National Restaurant Association had settled a couple of sexual harassment suits on his behalf. Neither the public nor the press had learned anything about those charges yet.

He asked you to devise the most effective public relations strategy you could think of to help him handle those charges. You can’t simply tell him to drop out of the race – he’s insistent upon staying in.

What would you have advised him to do?

Option One: Full Disclosure: You advise him to get in front of the story by disclosing everything he knows to the public. That would allow him to deal with the story up front (and only one time) instead of having a series of painful “rolling disclosures.”

He might even throw in a dose of religion, saying that he hasn’t been a perfect man but that he’s asked forgiveness from God and his wife. That approach seems to have worked for Newt Gingrich, who cheated on and divorced two ill wives before marrying his third wife.

Option Two: Partial Admission: You advise Mr. Cain to admit that he has been imperfect in his marriage, but instruct him to refuse going into the details. If a reporter asks about a specific charge of sexual harassment, for example, you tell him to say, “I have not been perfect as a husband, but that’s a matter that will remain private between me and my wife. I am not going to discuss these allegations any further.”

This approach worked when Bill Clinton was running for president in 1992. He admitted to 60 Minutes’ Steve Kroft that he had “caused pain” in his marriage, but refused to say exactly how.

Option Three: Unwavering Denial: After speaking with Mr. Cain, you quickly realize that even if the allegations are true, none of the women are likely to have any specific evidence. You believe any allegations would be a “he said, she said,” and you instruct Mr. Cain to stay silent until and unless any women come forward – at which point he should strongly refute any allegations anybody makes.

This is different that Mr. Cain’s strategy, in that his denials weren’t consistent and changed over time. Instead, you would advise Mr. Cain to forcefully deny every allegation and demand credible proof. In Mr. Cain’s case, the proof was circumstantial – even the woman who claimed a 13-year affair couldn’t provide a single photograph, plane ticket, or hotel invoice.

So, which option would you choose? Please vote below:

Which Approach Would You Have Advised?

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Please add any additional thoughts or approaches to the comments section below. 

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November 2011: The Eight Worst Video Media Disasters, Pt. 2

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on December 1, 2011 – 6:22 am

Did you miss part one, which featured four of the biggest video media disasters of November? Click here to catch up.

Yesterday, I featured the first half of my selections for the worst video media disasters of November. Today, I’ll complete the countdown with my picks for the four worst video media disasters of the month.

And believe me, folks – some of these clips are truly jaw-dropping.

#4: President Obama and French President Sarkozy Caught on Open Mic

U.S. President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy were caught by an open microphone blasting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. After Sarkozy called Netanyahu a “liar,” Mr. Obama reportedly responded, “You may have had enough of him, but I have to deal with him every day.” The comments sparked a diplomatic kerfuffle and national headlines throughout Israel. Both men should have known better than to speak so candidly in earshot of reporters.

#3: Herman Cain Has All This Stuff Twirling Around In His Head

GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain froze when he was asked about President Obama’s handling of Libya by editors of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Mr. Cain stammered for 65 painful seconds, offering such gems as “No, that’s a different one,” and “I got all of this stuff twirling around in my head.”

#2: Rick Perry’s “Oops” Moment

During a Republican presidential debate, Texas Governor Rick Perry confidently declared he would eliminate three government agencies – and promptly forgot what they were. For 47 painful seconds, Mr. Perry tried to recall the third agency he would eliminate. He finally gave up, shrugged his shoulders, and said, “oops.” That one moment likely sank any chances of Mr. Perry winning the nomination. (This bizarre video of a November speech likely didn’t help either.)

#1: (Alleged) Penn State Child Rapist Jerry Sandusky Speaks

Jerry Sandusky, a former football coach at Penn State University, spoke to NBC’s Bob Costas about horrific allegations that he raped numerous boys. Mr. Costas asked Mr. Sandusky this direct question: “Are you sexually attracted to young boys?” An innocent person would typically answer that question in only one way (“Hell, no.”). But Sandusky chose a different answer, one that was downright creepy. (fast forward to 7:15)

Bonus Disaster: Lawmaker Loses Control, Screams at Constituents

When Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh met with his constituents at a town hall meeting, he suddenly erupted, telling the voters he was “pissed off.” He might consider registering for anger management classes prior to his next meeting.

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Who Is The Best (And Worst) Debater In Republican Field?

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on November 29, 2011 – 6:23 am

Republican Debate Scorecard: Who Gets The Highest (and Lowest) Grades For Debating Skills So Far?

World’s Most Visited Media Training Website Ranks Candidates’ Debate Performance In First Ten Debates

November 29, 2011 (Washington, DC) – Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are the best debaters in the Republican field, while Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry rank among the worst, according to a detailed analysis of ten Republican debates held between May and November 2011.

To help determine the winners and losers, the candidates were ranked using seven specific communications criteria – including clarity of message, optimism of message, and charisma – that have accurately predicted the winners of every general election since the beginning of the 24/7 media age in 1980.

The 10,000-word series appears on the Mr. Media Training Blog (, the world’s most visited media training website. The blog’s author, Brad Phillips, was formerly a journalist with ABC News and CNN. Here are the rankings:

First Place: Mitt Romney (B+) Gov. Romney has been the most consistent debater thus far. He has easily deflected his opponents’ attacks, proving himself to be a “Teflon” candidate to whom nothing sticks. He has demonstrated a mastery of public policy and shown toughness as a debater. The Republican base may not love him, but they have to concede he would fare well in next fall’s debates against President Obama.

Second Place: Newt Gingrich (B) Speaker Gingrich propelled himself to the top of the Republican pack primarily through his strong debate performances, during which he often castigated the mainstream media. Like Romney, he has demonstrated his policy mastery. Unlike Romney, his propensity to go off-script leaves open the question of whether he’s a more disciplined politician than he was in the 1990s.

Third Place: Michele Bachmann (B-) Rep. Bachmann, who briefly flirted with the lead, has shown an impressive ability to articulate an unambiguous message throughout the debates (ObamaCare bad, repeal good). She has also demonstrated a skillful ability to attack her opponents directly without ever appearing nasty. Still, she falls off-script too often, such as when she said after one debate that the HPV vaccine caused “mental retardation.”

Fourth Place: Herman Cain (C+) Mr. Cain dominated the storyline in several early debates with his “9-9-9” plan; no other candidate offered such a memorable proposal. Mr. Cain’s ability to offer a well-timed one-liner helped make him a crowd favorite. But recent debates about foreign policy have revealed his superficial knowledge of international affairs and will likely hasten his decline in the polls.

Fifth Place, Tied: Ron Paul (C) Rep. Paul is the most ideologically consistent of anyone in the field, and is unafraid to defend his views – many of which are unpopular with the GOP base. Still, he too often comes across as lecturing and strident, and hasn’t made the personal connection that will help him expand his reach beyond his relatively small but deeply loyal base.

Fifth Place, Tied: Rick Santorum (C) Sen. Santorum is passionate, but conveys that passion with an ever-present sour expression. Mr. Santorum has launched a few effective attacks on his opponents. But whereas Ronald Reagan used to eviscerate his opponents with a warm smile, Mr. Santorum looks thoroughly disgusted with his opponents. There’s a reason Mr. Santorum hasn’t moved in the polls, and it’s that Americans express a clear preference for sunnier candidates.

Fifth Place, Tied: Rick Perry (C) During the debate held on November 9, Gov. Perry committed one of the worst debate gaffes in memory when he struggled for 43 seconds to identify the third of three government agencies he pledged to eliminate. He never remembered it, ending his answer with a lame, “Oops.” Mr. Perry has careened between too hot and too cold, unable to settle on the right tone. His halting speaking style, filled with long pauses during which he struggles to find the next phrase, makes him hard to watch. But for a strong first debate, Perry would have ranked lower.

Eighth Place, Jon Huntsman (C-) Gov. Huntsman’s debate performances were mostly memorable for his frequent (and failed) attempts at humor. Whether making a joke invoking Kurt Cobain or the “gas” coming from Washington, Mr. Huntsman too often resembled the awkward uncle who elicits sympathy laughs at family events. Still, Mr. Huntsman may be someone to look out for. His last debate performance was by far his strongest, and that makes him the most improved debater in the field.

“This season’s many debates have given Republican voters a clear sense of which candidates would square off most effectively against President Obama,” said Brad Phillips, author of the Mr. Media Training Blog. “That matters, as the more charismatic general election candidate with the clearer message has won the presidency in every election since the beginning of the 24/7 media age in 1980.”


Brad Phillips is the author of the Mr. Media Training Blog (, the world’s most visited media training website. He is the president of Phillips Media Relations, a media and presentation training firm with offices in NYC and Washington, DC. Mr. Phillips previously worked as a journalist with ABC’s Nightline with Ted Koppel and CNN’s Reliable Sources and The Capital Gang.


Brad Phillips,


Below, you will find links to the scorecards for each debate:

November 22, 2011

November 9, 2011

October 18, 2011

October 11, 2011

September 22, 2011

September 12, 2011

September 7, 2011 

August 11, 2011 

June 13, 2011

May 5, 2011

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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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