With the first half of 2012 drawing to a close, I’m happy to report that public figures didn’t let us down. As usual, they committed a series of gaffes ranging from the bizarre … to the rude … to the downright cringe-worthy.
So without any further ado, here’s this month’s collection of blunders, featuring a deceased spouse, some bad reporting, and an aggressive heckler.
5. Hey, Martin Short: How’s your dead wife doing?
“Today” show host Kathie Lee Gifford committed an embarrassing gaffe when she asked comic Martin Short how his wife was doing. The problem? Short’s wife, Nancy, died two years ago.
Two things are noteworthy about this gaffe. First, Giffords’ question suggested a more intimate friendship with the Shorts than she clearly had. Second, note Short’s incredibly graceful reaction. His poise during an uncomfortable moment only made him look better.
Note: Although this occurred at the end of May, it missed the deadline for last month’s list.
4. CNN and Fox News blow Supreme Court call
In their zeal to report the Supreme Court’s decision regarding the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care law, two of the biggest cable news channels blew the story. Both incorrectly reported that the individual mandate was dead.
Given the history of blown media calls—which include “Gabrielle Giffords dead,” “Gore wins Florida,” and “Dewey beats Truman”—you’d think the networks would know better than to rush information to air.
3. British member of Parliament gets pummeled by interviewer
This was a classic interview with an “out of the loop” spokesperson.
Chloe Smith is a young (30-year-old) conservative member of the British Parliament who serves as the economic secretary to the Treasury. When she appeared on Jeremy Paxman’s “Newsnight” to discuss the decision to delay a planned increase in fuel taxes, she failed to answer even the most direct questions.
Many of Smith’s colleagues in Parliament were furious that her boss who made the decision, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, sent her to do the show instead of doing it himself. Cover your eyes when you watch this one.
2. Blogger heckles President Obama’s immigration speech
Neil Munro, a blogger for Tucker Carlson’s conservative website The Daily Caller, heckled President Obama during his immigration speech by shouting a confrontational question at him: “Why are you favoring immigrant workers over Americans?”
Munro later claimed that he thought the president was finished with his statement and simply mistimed his question. But no other reporters were similarly confused, and some said afterwards that it was clear the president was in mid-speech.
Carlson (with whom I worked at CNN and personally like) also belongs on this list for offering a spirited defense of Munro’s uncivilized behavior.
1. President Obama says the private sector is “doing fine”
While speaking about the economy at a press conference earlier this month, President Obama said, “The private sector is doing fine.” By some measurements, that may be true. But by making such a declarative statement, he handed his opponents a perfect opportunity to label him as “out of touch.” Hours later, he walked his comment back.
His gaffe was reminiscent of Mitt Romney‘s “I like being able to fire people” gaffe. Neither sentence will likely determine the outcome of November’s election. But expect to see Republicans use President Obama’s gaffe against him—and probably with some success—in hundreds of ads this fall.
Visit the Mr. Media Training blog for two bonus gaffes.