The Ten Worst Video Media Disasters Of 2012

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on December 13, 2012 – 6:02 am

2012 was an election year, so it’s no surprise that politicians consistently committed the types of gaffes that took their campaigns far off message.

This year, we heard about the “47 percent,” “tacos,” and “chains.” But it wasn’t just politicians in trouble–an executive, a football coach, and three broadcast personalities also made the list.

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

Honorable Mention: Kathie Lee Gifford: How’s Your Dead Wife?

In May, 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. It’s not that she made a mistake. It’s that her question, asked in that typically “insider” show business way, suggested a much more intimate friendship with the Shorts than she clearly had.

 

10. Joe Biden: “Republicans Will Put You Back in Chains.”

When speaking in August, Vice President Joe Biden used an unfortunate choice of words that instantly triggered accusations of racism. He told the crowd, in which many African Americans were present:

“Romney wants to let the–he said in the first hundred days, he’s going to let the big banks once again write their own rules, unchain Wall Street. They’re going to put you all back in chains.”

Biden denied that his comments had any racial context, but all politicians should have learned to avoid such rhetorical traps from Ross Perot’s infamous 1992 “you people” remark.

 

9. One Mayor’s Pledge to Eat Tacos

When four police officers in East Haven, Connecticut were indicted on charges of beating Hispanic residents, a reporter asked the town’s mayor, Joseph Maturo, “What are you doing for the Latino community today?”

Mr. Maturo’s shocking response—“I might have tacos when I go home”—led to him being blasted by members of the community, the governor, and the media. The rest of the interview wasn’t much better. This may only rank ninth on the year-end list, but it’s my personal favorite of the year.

 

8. Democratic Consultant: Ann Romney “Never Worked”

Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen caused a stir during a CNN interview in April when she said that Ann Romney “has never worked a day in her life.” Many women were offended at Ms. Rosen’s assertion, especially given that Ms. Romney was a stay-at-home mother who raised five boys.

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

 

7. Football Coach Offers Cash for Injuring Opponent

In a remarkably violent and vulgar audio tape released in April, former New Orleans Saints Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams was caught offering players money to injure members of the opposing team before a 2012 divisional playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers. 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.

 

6. Clint Eastwood Hijacks Mitt Romney’s Big Night

On the final night of the Republican National Convention, Mitt Romney accepted his party’s nomination to become the Republican presidential candidate. He proceeded to deliver a fine speech. Unfortunately, actor Clint Eastwood–who took the stage minutes before him–stole many of the headlines Romney had earned.

Eastwood took the stage accompanied by a bar stool. For 11 painful minutes, Eastwood addressed the bar stool as if it was President Obama. It was off message, bizarre, and embarrassing–and the news media spent precious minutes discussing Eastwood afterward instead of Romney.

 

5. Rush Limbaugh Calls Student a “Slut”

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.

 

4. Susan G. Komen Founder Blows Crisis Response

Susan G. Komen founder Nancy Brinker appeared on MSNBC after her organization cut off funding to Planned Parenthood, allegedly because Planned Parenthood provides abortion services. The resulting crisis was a disaster for Komen that threatened to destroy in a matter of days the favorable reputation it had built over decades. 

Ms. Brinker bombed the interview, during which she claimed that “the responses we’re getting are favorable,” seemingly oblivious to the firestorm around her. She edgily blamed her critics for not “bothering” to read more about their decision and failed to express any reassurance to her supporters who felt betrayed by the decision.

The group’s fundraising took a major hit, with fewer women participating in Komen’s annual races. In Washington, DC, 40,000 women raced in 2011; only 26,000 did in 2012. Similar drops were reported in several other U.S. cities.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 

3. The First Debate and the Other Barack Obama Gaffes

From “The private sector is doing fine” to “If you have a business, you didn’t build that,” President Obama offered his opponents plenty of fodder for negative attack ads.

But it was Mr. Obama’s shockingly lackluster performance in the first presidential debate that may have been the biggest surprise, leading to an immediate decline in his poll numbers and a collective freak out by his Democratic supporters, who wondered how badly he really wanted a second term.

During the debate, Mr. Obama responded to Mitt Romney’s attacks without any discernible passion, instead making meandering points full of “uhhhs.” The video below is an edited compilation of some of Mr. Obama’s more than 200 “uhhhs.” It’s emblematic of how hesitant and unfocused he was throughout the debate.

 

2. The “47 Percent” and the Other Mitt Romney Gaffes

Whether saying “I like being able to fire people,” criticizing London about its Olympics preparation during a trip to the U.K., or boasting about his wife’s two Cadillacs, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney couldn’t get out of his own way all year. But it was his comment about the “47 percent” that may have sealed his fate:

“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.

 

1. Todd Akin’s “Legitimate Rape”

Missouri’s Republican Senate candidate, Todd Akin, caused an uproar when he used the phrase “legitimate rape” during an August television interview.

But it was what he said immediately afterward that was both scientifically false and terrifyingly ignorant. Speaking about the possibility of a woman getting pregnant after being raped, he said:

“From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Akin’s comment served as a perfect example for Democrats pushing the theme of a Republican “war on women.” Republicans, aware of the damage Akin’s comment would have on the rest of the party, quickly begged him to quit the race. He refused. And Democratic incumbent Clare McCaskill beat him by a whopping 15 points in a race that favored the Republican challenger in many early polls. 

Although Akin wasn’t alone in these types of comments–Indiana’s Richard Mourdock and Joe Walsh swam in similar waters–his was the most high-profile.

Don’t commit your own media disaster! Learn how to remain on message by reading my new book, The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need to Know Before Your Next Interview. Click here to learn more.

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Joe Biden vs. Paul Ryan Debate Scorecard: Oct 11, 2012

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on October 11, 2012 – 11:42 pm

During tonight’s vice presidential debate, Vice President Biden repeatedly laughed at inappropriate moments. He continually interrupted both his opponent and the moderator. He looked a little too angry for his own good at certain moments. His tone vacillated wildly.

And he won the debate.

If Mr. Biden’s job in this debate was to staunch the bleeding caused by President Obama’s phoned-in performance at last week’s presidential debate, he succeeded. In contrast, Congressman Ryan—who was more consistent in tone throughout the debate—too often appeared rehearsed, flat, and junior.

I suspect many readers will disagree with my conclusion. And they have some reasonable ammunition with which to disagree.

Dissenting readers will likely point to Mr. Biden’s demeanor. And they’d be right that four different Bidens showed up for the debate. First, the Biden who smiled and laughed at forced and inopportune moments; second, the Biden who repeatedly interrupted; third, the Biden who became heated and angry; and fourth, the Biden who was quiet and reflective.

Watching Biden’s performance was a bit like watching Showtime’s “United States of Tara.”

Despite all of that, Mr. Biden was simply more effective at controlling the debate, challenging his opponent’s premises, and delivering memorable messages. Unlike the president he serves, Mr. Biden confronted Ryan directly throughout the debate, memorably saying, “Stop talking about how you care about people. Show me something. Show me a policy.”

Even more importantly, Biden forged a warmer and more emotional personal connection with viewers, particularly when addressing seniors regarding Medicare by looking directly into the camera.

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If Mr. Biden’s job tonight was to change the media narrative, Mr. Ryan’s was to prove that he’s ready for the vice presidency while holding the ground Republicans have gained over the past week. He met that challenge tonight, but didn’t exceed it. My guess is that his performance will be almost completely forgotten by next week.

Watching these debates is a bit of a Rorschach test, in which viewers see what they’re conditioned to see. What I saw in Mr. Ryan was a serious student who had studied his materials well but who had tried a bit too hard to memorize his lines—and who lost some of his authenticity as a result. With the exception of a couple of well-delivered anecdotes (particularly on his 2002 trip to Afghanistan), he came across as rather academic.

And Ryan came dangerously close to Dan Quayle territory when he referenced John F. Kennedy. “Now you’re Jack Kennedy?” an incredulous Joe Biden asked.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Still, Mr. Ryan had several good moments. He delivered a strong closing statement about the national debt, and did a credible job of discussing Afghanistan later in the debate. One highlight came when Ryan turned to Biden and said: “With respect to that quote [Mitt Romney’s infamous 47 percent comment], I think the Vice President knows that sometimes the words don’t come out of your mouth in the right way.” Unfortunately for Mr. Ryan, Biden had the perfect retort: “But I always say what I mean, and so does Romney.”

There were two other moments worth noting. First, Mr. Ryan took a deep breath in before answering a question about the availability of abortion in America under a Romney-Ryan administration. That may hurt with pro-choice voters who occasionally swing right. Second, Joe Biden chose to label Paul Ryan “my friend” 13 times during the debate, which became an insincere distraction.

Overall, Joe Biden displayed all of the passion for his job that Democrats wish President Obama had last week. And Paul Ryan held his own, even if his performance is likely to disappear into the political ether within days.

Grades: Joe Biden: B+  Paul Ryan: B-

What do you think? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.



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Live Blog: Democratic National Convention, 9/6/12

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on September 6, 2012 – 4:00 pm

Welcome to our live blog of the Democratic National Convention!

I’ll live blog tonight’s proceedings from the final night at the Democratic National Convention from 9pm—11pm eastern.

Tonight’s highlights include speeches from President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

Please leave any thoughts in the comments section—I’ll use a few of them for the main thread.

Finally, there’s no need to refresh your browser; new updates will automatically appear. Here we go!

Read more »


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August 2012: The Five Worst Video Media Disasters

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on August 31, 2012 – 12:37 am

Kiss my ass!

They’ll put you back in chains!

Legitimate rape!

Those loaded statements can only mean one thing: It’s time for this month’s worst media disasters list. And folks, this month was a doozy.

Without any further ado, here are the five worst media disasters of August 2012!

5. Yahoo News Editor Gets Caught on a Hot Mic

Yahoo News’ Washington Bureau Chief, David Chalian, was caught on a hot microphone earlier this week for expressing a rather ugly view of Mitt Romney.

Speaking about Romney’s decision to proceed with the Republican National Convention in light of Hurricane Isaac making landfall, Chalian said: “They are happy to have a party with black people drowning.”

Yahoo fired him immediately afterwards.

 

 

4. Romney Spokesperson Tells Reporters to “Kiss My Ass”

Mitt Romney’s overseas trip was a bit of a disaster. But the most comical moment occurred toward the end of his trip when his traveling press secretary, Rick Gorka, snapped at the press corps.

I’ll admit it: The reporters in this video were acting boorishly. It’s not that they didn’t have a right to shout questions – in fact, Mitt Romney’s refusal to answer their questions throughout the trip necessitated it. But their superficial questions about gaffes made them look bad.

Unfortunately, Mr. Gorka took the bait:

In what has to be one of the most unintentionally contradictory statements of the year, Gorka scolded the press by saying, “Kiss my ass. This is a holy site for the Polish people. Show some respect.”

He was quickly sidelined by the campaign.

 

3. Vice President Biden Tells Crowd Republicans Will Put Them “Back In Chains”

When speaking to the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville, Va. earlier this month, Joe Biden used an unfortunate choice of words that instantly triggered accusations of racism.

He told the crowd, in which many African Americans were present:

“Romney wants to let the — he said in the first hundred days, he’s going to let the big banks once again write their own rules, unchain Wall Street. They’re going to put you all back in chains.”

 

Biden denied that his comments had any racial context, but it doesn’t matter. Politicians should have learned to avoid such rhetorical traps from Ross Perot’s infamous 1992 “you people” remark.

 

2. Clint Eastwood Hijacks Mitt Romney’s Big Night

Last night, Mitt Romney accepted his party’s nomination to become the Republican candidate for President. He proceeded to deliver one of the best speeches of his political life. Unfortunately, actor Clint Eastwood – who took the stage minutes before him – stole many of the headlines Romney had earned.

Eastwood took the stage, accompanied by a bar stool. For 11 painful minutes, Eastwood proceeded to address the bar stool, as if it was President Obama. It was off-message, bizarre, and embarrassing – and the news media spent precious minutes gossiping about Eastwood instead of Romney.

This one has to be seen to be believed.

 

1. Senate Candidate Offers Strange View of “Legitimate Rape”

In this era of endless partisan squabbling, it’s refreshing to see true bipartisanship in action. For a few days earlier this month, one politician brought opposite sides together – Republicans including Mitt Romney, Karl Rove, and Sean Hannity were all in rare agreement with Democrats such as President Obama, David Axelrod, and Rachel Maddow.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t the kind of bipartisanship that Republican Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin was going for. His controversial (and scientifically incorrect) assertions about rape caused a firestorm, with most prominent members of his own party begging him to quit the race:

“From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

 

Despite the mounting pressure, he’s still in the race. For now.

 

Bonus Video 1: Ryan Lochte Is a Great Swimmer, But…

Olympic champion Ryan Lochte is a great swimmer. But judging from his media interviews, he’s not likely to get signed on as a network commentator any time soon.

 

Bonus Video 2: The Next President of The United States?

While announcing Paul Ryan as his running mate, Mitt Romney inadvertently called him “The next President of the United States.”

Although this was a gaffe, it was also emblematic of a larger point: Small media mistakes, when handled gracefully, can actually enhance the reputation of the person who commits it. I found this to be one of the most human moments of Romney’s entire campaign, and enjoyed seeing him display his unguarded sense of humor. He should allow the public to see more of this appealing side of his personality.

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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. 

DID YOU MISS THE 10 WORST MEDIA DISASTERS OF 2011? CLICK HERE TO CATCH UP.

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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The Five Worst Video Media Disasters: August 2011

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on September 1, 2011 – 6:31 am

Dear Politicians: You make it soooo easy for this blog to document your media mistakes. Did you really need to make misogynistic comments and violent threats? Did you really need to walk off the set of an interview and endorse an unpopular Chinese policy?

Here, without any further ado, are the five worst media disasters of August!

#5: Christine O’Donnell Walks Off Piers Morgan

She’s not a witch, but she sure is fiery. Christine O’Donnell, the failed 2010 Delaware Republican Senate candidate, sat down with CNN’s Piers Morgan earlier this month to discuss her new book. But she objected to some of his (totally predictable) questions, and walked off the set in middle of the interview.

Click here for the full story, Christine O’Donnell’s Bizarre CNN Walk Off

#4: Charlie Rangel’s “Pretty Girl”

When Laura Ingraham sat in for Bill O’Reilly on the Fox News Channel, she asked Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) a series of aggressive questions without allowing him to respond. But Mr. Rangel protested in the wrong way, resorting to an ad hominem attack better suited to 1957.

#3: Mitt Romney: Corporations are People, My Friend

When heckled at the Iowa State Fair, GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney angrily responded by blurting out, “Corporations are people, my friend!” He’s making a philosophical point here that corporations are entities run by people and that profit people. But it’s the kind of tin-ear remark that doomed John McCain in 2008 after he declared that “The fundamentals of our economy are strong” on the same day Lehman Brothers collapsed.

Click here for the full story, Two Ways to Handle a Heckler

#2: Joe Biden Endorses China’s One Child Policy

When he visited China earlier this month, Vice President Biden was speaking about entitlements when he went off-script and appeared to endorse China’s “One Child” policy. The policy is abhorrent to many Americans, since it leads many of China’s city-dwellers to abort female fetuses in an effort to produce a male child.  Biden said:

“Your policy has been one which I fully understand, I’m not second-guessing, of one child per family.”

 

 

#1: Rick Perry Threatens a Public Official

When GOP Presidential candidate Rick Perry was asked about the Federal Reserve, he made menacing remarks about Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke:

“If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don’t know what ya’ll would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas…I mean printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treasonous.”

 

Treason is a crime punishable by death. Perry was rightly criticized for his violent rhetoric, which has no place in a post-Giffords (or a post-JFK or post-RFK or post-MLK) world.

Bonus Video: Al Sharpton Will Much About That Will Be Committed. Or Something.

When new MSNBC host Al Sharpton appeared to experience the pain of a broken teleprompter, he struggled mightily to recover against the English language. It didn’t go well.

Don’t miss a single media gaffe! Follow us on Twitter at @MrMediaTraining and like us on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/MrMediaTraining.

Related: The Five Worst Video Media Disasters of July

Related: The Ten Worst Video Media Disasters of 2010

Note to readers: I’ll be taking a long weekend to enjoy Labor Day. Have a great holiday weekend, and see you back here on Tuesday, September 6th!


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The Ten Worst Media Disasters of 2010

Written by Brad Phillips on December 20, 2010 – 7:02 am

NEW! The Ten Worst Media Disasters of 2011 Is Here!

The Mr. Media Training Blog is pleased to announce the 10 worst on-camera media gaffes of 2010!

This year’s winners include a politician threatening to kill a reporter, a movie star threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend, a Prime Minister killing his own political career, and a CEO trying to “top kill” an oil spill.

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

Here, without further ado: the ten worst media disasters of 2010:

Honorable Mention: Helen Thomas Tells Jews to Go Home

In June, 89-year-old Hearst Columnist Helen Thomas was asked her opinion about Israel. “Tell them to get  the hell out of Palestine,” she responded. She resigned within days, marking a sad end to a storied career.

This incident would have ranked higher, but it had little practical impact. The work she produced toward the end of her career was little read and uninfluential.

 

10. Sarah Palin Scribbles on Her Hand

If you’re a 9-year-old giving a speech to your fourth grade class, it might be adorable to write a few reminders on your hand. If you’re a former Vice Presidential nominee getting paid $100,000 for a high-profile speech, well, not so much.

In February, Ms. Palin reinforced the narrative about her lack of heft when she addressed the National Tea Party movement with these words written on her hand: “Energy,” “Tax Cuts,” and “Lift American Spirits.”

 

 

 

9. Christine O’Donnell Disowns Her Wiccan Past

If your campaign needs to put out an ad denying that you’re a witch, you’re probably going to lose.

Delaware GOP Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell should have known not to use the language of denial. It didn’t work well for Richard Nixon (“I am not a crook”), Bill Clinton (“I did not have sexual relations with that woman”), or Larry Craig (“I am not gay”), and it sure didn’t work for her.

 

Click here to read our full analysis of this incident, Christine O’Donnell’s New Ad: I Am Not a Witch.

 

8. Dr. Steven Duckett, Former CEO, Alberta Health Services

In November, Alberta’s hospitals had run out of beds, and the public was upset about long emergency room wait times. If you were Dr. Stephen Duckett, CEO of the Alberta government agency responsible for the health of more than 3.5 million Canadians, you probably wanted to express your unwavering commitment to improving the health care system for all Albertans.

He didn’t. Instead, he prioritized a baked good. And he got fired for this interview.

 

Click here to read our analysis of this incident, “I’m Eating a Cookie: An Instant Media Classic.”

7. Vice President Joe Biden’s Big ‘Effin Deal

It took almost a century for an American president to pass sweeping health care reform legislation. In March, President Obama achieved what past presidents couldn’t. And his signing ceremony represented an opportunity to bask in his achievement.

Instead, Vice President Joe Biden leaned in – near a hot microphone – and told the President the passage was a “big fucking deal.” Biden’s comments earned front page coverage, tainting coverage of the actual legislative accomplishment. And the Vice President reinforced the narrative about his lack of discipline.

 

 

 

6. Gov. Jan Brewer Forgets…Ummm…What Was I Saying?

During a September gubernatorial debate in Arizona, Governor Jan Brewer froze when asked to make her opening statement. If you hate the awkward humor in The Office, you’re probably going to hate this train wreck. If you’re a fan of the show, you now know what Michael Scott would look like as a southwestern politician.

 

Click here to read our full analysis of this incident, “Brewer Debate Freeze.” 

 

5. Carl Paladino (R-NY) Threatens to Kill Reporter

Even in an election year marked by unusually hostile press relations, New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino’s confrontation with a reporter stood out. 

When he ran into New York Post reporter Fred Dicker in September, he threatened, “You send another goon to my daughter’s house, and I’ll take you out, buddy.” When Dicker asked how, Paladino chillingly responded with one word: “Watch.”

 

 

 
4. Mel Gibson’s Unhinged Racial Rants

July’s release of phone calls Mel Gibson made to his ex made Michael Richards, Roman Polanski, and Phil Spector look like regal statesmen.

The racist tapes captured a deeply abusive man who threatened to murder his ex. The Hollywood pariah was briefly cast in a career comeback role in the upcoming sequel to The Hangover. But the cast – which had no problem working with convicted rapist Mike Tyson – drew the line at Gibson.

This video is definitely not suitable for work. Or children. Or small animals.

 

 

 
3. Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-NC) Assaults Interviewer

When Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-NC) was confronted by two young interviewers in June, he responded by striking the camera and violently grabbing the wrist and neck of one of the interviewers. It later emerged that the two interviewers were coordinated by Republican political strategists – but that’s no excuse for his stunning physical assault.

Rep. Etheridge lost his re-election bid by about 1,500 votes. This incident likely sealed his fate.

 

 

2. Bigoted Woman Ends Career of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown was locked in a tight re-election bid when, just one week before May’s election, he spoke with one of his constituents on the street. He politely ended the conversation with the woman, got in his car, and was driven away.

But he forgot that his microphone was still attached. As he was driven away, he called the woman a bigot. The tape was played on an endless loop in the press. And his party lost 91 seats in the election. 

 

1. BP CEO Tony Hayward Wants His Life Back

Every so often, a spokesperson delivers a phrase so ridiculous – so out-of-step with reality – that it becomes a national catchphrase.

Tony Hayward

When an oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in April, eleven men were killed. Five million barrels of oil gushed from the sea floor. Tens of thousands of local workers who depended on the Gulf for their livings lost their jobs. Fishermen were left without seafood to sell, hotels were left without guests, and restaurants were left without diners.

Leave it to former BP CEO Tony Hayward to make the crisis about himself. “I’d like my life back,” he told reporters in May – a stunningly tone-deaf comment that appeared to slight the deceased oil workers.

Hayward’s highly-publicized media missteps created an irreversible narrative of a clueless company that just didn’t get it – and just didn’t care. Mr. Hayward was soon relieved of his duties, but the reputational damage to BP will take years to fix – if it can be fixed at all.

 

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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.

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    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.

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    Christina Mozaffari is the Senior Writer for the Mr. Media Training Blog. She is the Washington, D.C. vice president for Phillips Media Relations.

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    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.

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