The 10 Most Jaw-Dropping Media Interview Answers

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on September 26, 2013 – 6:02 am

Since beginning this blog in August 2010, I’ve written about hundreds of media disasters.

Today, I decided to go back and look at the most outrageous things people have said over the past three years and compile the most jaw-dropping sound bites I could find.

My list is subjective. If your personal favorite isn’t on this list, please leave it in the comments section below, preferably with a link to the video or news story.

Without further ado, here are 10 of the most jaw-dropping media interview answers from the past three years!

If you’re watching this at work, please note that a few slides contain bad language.  

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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.

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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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Friday Classic Clip: Al Campanis Goes On Nightline (1987)

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on February 3, 2012 – 6:12 am

Last week, Mayor Joseph Maturo of East Haven, Connecticut was asked what he would do for his community’s Latino community following an abuse scandal. “I might have tacos when I get home,” he replied. His ridiculously insensitive answer was shocking, but far from the only one of its kind.

On April 6, 1987, L.A. Dodgers General Manager Al Campanis appeared on ABC’s Nightline.

He appeared on the program to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s major league debut (Robinson was the first black player to break baseball’s color barrier). So you’d think Campanis would have been particularly sensitive to issues of race that night.

Not so much.

Before you watch the clip, there’s one more relevant piece of context: According to ABC, there were no black managers, general managers, or owners in the major leagues at the time of this interview.


Dodgers G.M. Al Campanis: “I truly believe that they [African Americans] may not have some of the necessities to be, let’s say, a field manager, or perhaps a general manager.”

Nightline Host Ted Koppel: “You really believe that?”

Campanis: “Well, I don’t say that all of them, but they certainly are short. How many quarterbacks do you have? How many pitchers do you have that are black?”

Koppel: “Yeah, but I mean, I gotta tell you, that sounds like the same kind of garbage we were hearing 40 years ago about players….That really sounds like garbage, if you’ll forgive me saying so."

Campanis: “No it’s not, it’s not garbage, Mr. Koppel…why are black men, or black people, not good swimmers? Because they don’t have the buoyancy.”

Koppel: “Oh, it may just be that they don’t have access to all the country clubs and the pools.”


I wish I could say that those two examples were anomalies, but Mayor Maturo and Mr. Campanis are far from alone when it comes to public figures making racist statements. Here are four other high-profile examples:

  1. In 1988, sportscaster Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder was fired from CBS for saying, “The black is a better athlete to begin with because he’s been bred to be that way…the slave owner would, would, would, would breed his big black to his big woman so that he could have ah, ah big, ah big, ah big black kid.”
  2. Jimmy The Greek was fired for making racist comments

  3. In 1992, Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott got in hot water after referring to two of her star ballplayers as “million dollar niggers” and making favorable remarks about Adolf Hitler. She was banned from day-to-day operations for the 1993 season.  
  4. In 2006, Virginia Senate candidate George Allen called a young Indian-American man “Macaca,” a racial epithet. He lost the election.
  5. In 2007, radio host Don Imus lost his jobs at MSNBC and CBS radio after calling members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hoes.”

As for Mr. Campanis, he resigned two days after this interview aired, his legacy forever tarnished by a reckless few minutes. And as for Mayor Maturo? He still has his job. For now.

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January 2012: The Five Worst Video Media Disasters

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on January 31, 2012 – 6:12 am

It’s only January. You’d think that public figures would have made a New Year’s resolution to leave their disastrous media gaffes in 2011.

No such luck. This month, a taco-loving mayor, layoff-loving presidential candidate, and threat-loving politician put their feet firmly in their mouths.

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

(And if you missed the 10 worst media disasters of 2011, click here to catch up.)

5. Michael Moore: Older Voters Are Racist Homophobes

Michael Moore is right that younger people voted for President Obama in larger numbers than older generations did. But his conclusion that older people didn’t vote for President Obama because they’re racist homophobes is an offensive generalization.

Some older folks likely match his characterization – but many others voted for John McCain for his pledge to end earmarks, his foreign policy bona fides, or for hundreds of other legitimate reasons. Castigating them all as bigots is a perfect example of the small-minded reductionist politics that Mr. Moore blasts in his movies.


4. Nancy Pelosi’s Empty Threat

When Nancy Pelosi was asked whether former House colleague Newt Gingrich could become president, her tone became icy, responding, “That will never happen.”

When CNN Host John King asked why she was so sure, she offered a not-so-veiled threat: “There is something I know.” After Newt Gingrich responded by telling the press that she should come out with whatever she thinks she knows, Ms. Pelosi backtracked on her threat.

Her distasteful threat was tantamount to a childhood game of, “I have a secret and I’m not telling” – and it’s beneath her position as a former House Speaker.

3. The Marines Who Urinated on Dead People (And Their Defenders)

That four U.S. Marines urinated on dead Taliban insurgents (while laughing about giving them a “shower”) was bad enough. But the incident was made even worse when some conservatives suggested that it wasn’t a big deal. Former GOP hopeful Rick Perry said so, and CNN’s Dana Loesch went a step further, saying, ‘I’d urinate on dead Taliban too.”

No matter that Marine Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, said that, "These actions are in direct opposition to everything the military stands for.”

Or that Army Lt. Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, commander of the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command, said, "Defiling, desecrating, mocking, photographing or filming for personal use insurgent dead constitutes a grave breach of the LOAC (laws of armed conflict), violate basic standards of human decency and can cause serious damage to relations with the Afghan government."

2. Mitt Romney Likes Being Able to Fire People

Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney can’t help himself. If he’s not making $10,000 bets, telling people that he’s unemployed, boasting about putting his political opponents into debt, or bragging about living on the “real streets” of America, he’s threatening to fire people.

So it’s not so much that he uttered the words, “I like being able to fire people.” In fact, that sound bite alone is out-of-context. But it’s an oddly worded way of making his point (about being able to switch underperforming health care providers), and it’s little wonder that many people viewed it as revelatory, not accidental. You better believe his Democratic opponents can’t wait to use it against him.



1. 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 led to him being blasted by members of the community, the governor, and the media. 

I hope he was drunk when he gave this interview – at least that would give him an excuse. It’s only January, but his train wreck may end up as one of the worst media disasters of 2012. 


If you’re the captain of the Costa Concordia and you abandon ship after running aground in Italy, you might not want to come with an excuse so ludicrous as to dishonor the men and women who died on your ship. That didn’t seem to bother Francesco Schettino, who claimed that he didn’t want to leave the ship, but…

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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.

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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.

    Christina tweets at @PMRChristina.

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