The Three Worst Video Media Disasters of 2013

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on January 2, 2014 – 5:22 am

It’s not easy to be named the worst video media disaster of the year. Someone has to do something spectacularly dumb to receive the honor.

In 2010, the award went to BP CEO Tony Hayward, who told cameras “I’d like my life back” after his company’s massive oil spill killed 11 workers.

In 2011, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) nabbed the award, for obvious reasons.

In 2012, Senate candidate Todd Akin (R-MO) became notorious for his claim that “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Who will join their ranks this year? Read on…

Disaster Strikes

Number Three: Lance Armstrong Rides Into Infamy

After years of denying doping allegations, suing former teammates, and bullying everyone who got in his way, cycling champion Lance Armstrong finally admitted what many people already knew: that he was a dishonest cheat.

Armstrong selected Oprah Winfrey for his on-air confessional, a lengthy interview aired on two consecutive nights. But Armstrong’s carefully parsed and evasive responses did more harm than good, leaving an indelible impression that he was still being untruthful (Oprah even asked whether he was a sociopath). 

For example, Armstrong denied doping after 2005. But evidence presented by the USADA suggests he doped through 2009; if true, he lied during his admission. 


One of his lowest moments came when discussing a phone call with Betsy Andreu, wife of cyclist Frankie Andreu. When recounting the phone call, Armstrong seemed to find it funny that although he admitted calling her “crazy” and “a bitch,” he didn’t call her “fat.” He grinned at his apparent wit, as if he was a mischievous kid who thought his cruelty was somehow funny.

In another stunning moment, he admitted that he couldn’t remember everyone he had sued because he had sued so many people.

A Survey USA poll taken shortly after the interview found that only 17 percent of respondents thought he was being completely honest. Those are probably the same people who tell pollsters the U.S. Congress is doing a good job.

In the clip below, Armstrong tells Oprah that he “deserves” to be allowed to compete again.


Number Two: Paula Deen Cooks Up Trouble

Paula Deen, the Food Network’s southern-cooking celebrity chef, found herself in hot water (or, more appropriate to her style of cooking, a vat of butter and lard) in June after The National Enquirer released details of racist remarks she’s made in the past.

During a legal deposition in a workplace discrimination suit, Deen admitted using the N-word in the past and making racist jokes.

Paula Deen

But the most shocking moment may have come when she admitted that she wanted to emulate a wedding she had recently attended in which the wait staff was made up of  “middle-aged black men.” That wedding, she said, evoked fond feelings for her of a Civil War-era “really southern plantation wedding.”

Deen made the mistake of waiting two days to apologize personally—and when she did, her apology (her first of several) was a mess—one of the worst I’ve ever seen.

A few days later, Ms. Deen sobbed through a bizarre, out-of-control, and uncomfortable interview with Matt Lauer on The Today Show.

With better crisis management, Deen could have come through this crisis less scarred. Yes, she would have paid a price—but I’m convinced that her poor crisis response contributed mightily to the magnitude of her disaster, which included the loss of her Food Network contract and several lucrative endorsement deals.

She may eventually redeem herself enough to make a good living again, but it’s unlikely she’ll ever reclaim her one-time success.


Number One: Rob Ford Cracks Up

It’s hard to imagine too many people keeping their jobs after the year Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has had.

In May, the U.S. website Gawker published a report claiming they had seen a video of Ford smoking crack. Ford denied those allegations for months, until finally admitting that he had, in fact, smoked crack.

Rob Ford Pussy Apology Wife

But Ford didn’t simply admit smoking crack. He blamed reporters for his earlier lack of candor by claiming their questions months earlier had been asked using the wrong tense (“Do you smoke crack cocaine?” as opposed to “Have you ever smoked crack cocaine?”)

He also added a new page to the crisis communications playbook by casually blaming his drug use on being in a “drunken stupor.”

But Ford’s lowest moment—and the one I’m naming the worst video media disaster of the year—has to do with his casual mention of the amount of oral sex he receives at home.

During a press scrum, Ford denied charges that he had sexually harassed a former special assistant named Olivia Gondek. But the manner in which he did it was shockingly crass and unnecessarily graphic.


Ford capped off that ignominious day with yet another spousal indignity. He called a press conference to apologize for using such graphic language to describe his sex life. As he stood before reporters, his humiliated wife stood on the side of the stage, her eyes cast downward.

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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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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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  • 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.

    Brad tweets at @MrMediaTraining.

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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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