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, because 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 the list for May. As I said, I call ’em as I see ’em. You’re free to disagree with my picks, and I hope you’ll offer 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 makes 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.”
[Editor's note: President Obama on Friday wrote a letter of apology to the president of Poland.
4. Joe Biden jumps the gun on gay marriage.
When Vice President Biden said on “Meet the Press” that he supported gay marriage, he sent the White House into a tizzy.
Press Secretary Jay Carney at first tried—but failed—to explain to the press why the vice president and president had different views 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 to announce his support ahead of schedule, making Obama’s proclamation look as defensive as it was courageous.
If you think Biden’s remark was intentional, watch one of 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 birther rant created a problem for Romney, as the Republican candidate has chosen to embrace the New York blowhard rather than create a healthy distance from him.
Even worse: Romney won enough delegates to officially secure the Republican nomination on the same day—but Trump’s actions overshadowed those celebratory headlines.
2. Two North Carolina “men of faith” encourage violence toward gays.
At least two preachers last month were caught on video making disgusting comments about homosexuals. The first, North Carolina 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 probably 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” last month as a surrogate for President Obama’s reelection bid. But instead of supporting the president’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital, 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.”
Booker walked back his comments in the days that followed, and the jury is still out on whether it will hurt his own 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.
To see three bonus gaffes from May, visit the Mr. Media Training blog
Brad Phillips is the author of the Mr. Media Training Blog and president of Phillips Media Relations, which specializes in media and presentation training.