It’s not uncommon for politicians to mangle a fact or two.
In an interview in last month, however, Stephanie Banister, a 27-year-old Australian running for a seat in Parliament on the fringe One Nation
ticket, took fact-mangling to a new extreme.
Under normal circumstances, a candidate who is unable to name her opponents would be subjected to ridicule, but that moment was almost entirely obscured by much larger gaffes and misstatements, which included these:
• “I don’t oppose Islam as a country.” (Islam isn’t a country.)
• “Less than two percent of Australians follow Haram.” (She probably means the Koran.)
• “Jews…have their own religion, which follows Jesus Christ.” (I must have missed that week in Hebrew School.)
• “I believe the national disability scheme is working at the moment.” (The reporter notes it doesn’t begin until 2016.)
After the interview went viral, subjecting Banister to international ridicule, she complained about the manner in which her interview was edited. According to The Age
Ms. Banister told Fairfax Media she felt she had been misrepresented and had corrected herself many times but it had been cut from the interview.
“Unfortunately, they’ve completely twisted all my words and made me out to be a stand-up criminal and a stupid moron,” she said.
She said she knew Islam was not a country and meant to say “Islamic countries.”
Assuming that’s true, it still doesn’t explain her other gaffes. No one made her say that Jews followed Jesus Christ or mislabel Islam’s central religious text. Based on her seemingly evident lack of knowledge in multiple places, it’s doubtful that she corrected all the errors she made during her interview.
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Even if she did, her stunning number of inaccurate statements were revelatory and arguably worthy of being aired.
How big a problem did this interview become for Banister? Shortly after this interview aired, she dropped out of the race.
Unless, of course, she misspoke.
Brad Phillips is author of the book The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need to Know Before Your Next Interview. He blogs at Mr. Media Training, where a version of this story first appeared.