National security vs. butter. Lies vs. racism. Self-soothing vs. hysterical crying.
This month’s two worst video media disasters couldn’t be more different from one another. One is arguably much more consequential than the other, but both (at least partially) destroyed the credibility of these two well-known public figures.
Without any further ado, here are the two worst video media disasters of June 2013:
1. U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper defends his dissembling.
Back in March, a congressman asked U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper whether the National Security Agency gathers “any type of data at all on millions of Americans.”
Clapper said “no.” But watch his body language when he said that. While answering the question, he repeatedly rubbed his forehead, often regarded as a self-soothing behavior.
When caught in a lie after Edward Snowden leaked information this month that confirmed the U.S. did gather data on millions of Americans, Mr. Clapper offered an extraordinary excuse:
“I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful, manner by saying ‘no.'”
Got that, kids? Next time you’re caught in a lie, just tell your parents that you were answering in the “least untruthful manner” possible.
[RELATED: Ragan's new distance-learning site houses the most comprehensive video training library for corporate communicators.]
2. Celebrity Chef Paula Deen cooks her brand.
In a deposition released this month, celebrity chef Paula Deen admitted using racial language and longing to plan a Civil War-era wedding complete with an all-black serving staff.
The inevitable backlash forced her to respond. First, her staff released a statement noting that Ms. Deen was raised in the South during a different era. Unsurprisingly, that landed with a thud. Ms. Deen then released three videos—none of them good—and canceled a scheduled appearance on "Today."
Finally, Ms. Deen rescheduled her "Today" interview—after she had already been fired from The Food Network—and proceeded to give a jaw-dropping answer to a direct question:
Matt Lauer: “Do you have any doubt that African-Americans are offended by the N-word?”
Paula Deen: “I don’t know.”
With that answer, Ms. Deen confirmed what a lot of people already suspected: that she just didn’t get it. Many of her sponsors reached the same conclusion, costing her millions—if not tens of millions—of dollars.
Brad Phillips is author of the new book The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need to Know Before Your Next Interview. He blogs at Mr. Media Training, where this story first appeared.