The ten worst media disasters of 2010 include a politician threatening to kill a reporter, a movie star threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend, a Prime Minister killing his own political career, and a CEO trying to "top kill" an oil spill. Sarah Palin, Mel Gibson, Tony Hayward, Joe Biden and Christine O’Donnell are among this year’s worst-behaved public figures. The list was published on the Mr. Media Training blog, which offers daily media and presentation training tips, written by media and presentation training firm Phillips Media Relations president Brad Phillips. You can find Mr. Media Training in our own ‘Dog Blogs section.
Honorable Mention: Helen Thomas Tells Jews to Go Home
In June, 89-year-old Hearst columnist Helen Thomas was asked her opinion about Israel. "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine," she responded. She resigned within days, marking a sad end to a storied career.
This incident would have ranked higher, but it had little practical impact. The work she produced toward the end of her career was little read and uninfluential.
10. Sarah Palin Scribbles on Her Hand
In February, Ms. Palin was paid $100,000 to address the National Tea Party movement. She was widely ridiculed when she was caught with the words "Energy," "Tax Cuts," and "Lift American Spirits" scribbled on her hand.
9. Christine O’Donnell: I’m Not A Witch
If your campaign needs to put out an ad denying that you’re a witch, you’re probably going to lose. Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell (R-DE) couldn’t cast a spell on voters, and lost badly in November.
8. Dr. Steven Duckett, Former CEO, Alberta Health Services
In November, Alberta’s hospitals had run out of beds. When confronted by the press about the bed shortage, CEO Steven Duckett absurdly told reporters, "I’m eating a cookie" — five times. He was fired shortly thereafter.
7. Vice President Joe Biden’s Big ‘Effin Deal
In March, President Obama achieved what past presidents couldn’t by passing health care reform. His signing ceremony represented an opportunity to bask in his achievement. Instead, Vice President Joe Biden leaned in — near a hot microphone — and told the President the passage was a "big f-ing deal," tainting coverage of the legislative accomplishment.
6. Gov. Jan Brewer Forgets…Ummm…What Was I Saying?
During a September gubernatorial debate in Arizona, Governor Jan Brewer froze when asked to make her opening statement. For thirteen painful seconds, she looked down, giggled, and committed numerous grammatical atrocities. It didn’t matter. She won re-election in November.
5. Carl Paladino (R-NY) Threatens to Kill Reporter
When New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino ran into New York Post reporter Fred Dicker in September, he threatened, "You send another goon to my daughter’s house and I’ll take you out, buddy." When Dicker asked how, Paladino chillingly responded with one word: "Watch."
4. Mel Gibson’s Unhinged Racial Rants
July’s release of phone calls from Mel Gibson to his ex-girlfriend made Michael Richards, Roman Polanski, and Phil Spector look like statesmen. The Hollywood pariah was briefly cast in a career comeback role in the upcoming sequel to The Hangover. But the cast — which had no problem working with convicted rapist Mike Tyson — drew the line at Gibson.
3. Rep. Bob Etheridge Assaults Interviewer
When Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-NC) was confronted by two young interviewers in June, he responded by striking the camera and violently grabbing the wrist and neck of one of the interviewers. Etheridge lost his re-election bid by about 1,500 votes. This incident likely sealed his fate.
2. "Bigoted" Woman Ends Career of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown was locked in a tight re-election bid when, just one week before May’s election, he spoke with one of his constituents on the street. He politely ended the conversation with the woman, got in his car, and was driven away. But he forgot that his microphone was still attached. As he was driven away, he called the woman a bigot. The press played the tape endlessly. And his party lost 91 seats.
1. BP CEO Tony Hayward Wants His Life Back
When an oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in April, eleven men were killed. Tens of thousands of local workers who depended on the Gulf for their livings lost their jobs.
Leave it to former BP CEO Tony Hayward to make the crisis about himself. "I’d like my life back," he told reporters in May — a stunningly tone-deaf comment that appeared to slight the deceased oil workers.
Hayward’s highly publicized media missteps created an irreversible narrative of a clueless company that just didn’t get it — and just didn’t care. He was soon relieved of his duties, but the reputational damage to BP will take years to fix — if it can be fixed at all.