4 Famous Car Crash Interviews
05 June 2017 -
Diane Abbott’s now infamous trainwreck radio interview joins the hall of shame list of bumbling, stumbling live interviews by politicians, executives and entrepreneurs from the recent past
Today, more than ever, top executives are often expected to be much more than functional managers, instead many are typically expected to meet the demands of the charismatic leader.
This includes being the face of your brand, and being open for regular and intelligent communication with the public through the traditional media.
Leaders, whether of companies or countries, are expected to be relatable, intelligent and charismatic to the press, treading the line between gaining traction for their ideas, stance and position on issues, without being controversial or offensive enough to upset audience.
Read more: CMI’s management manifesto
Quite often, however, organisations and their management are likely to be under the microscope of the press during times of controversy and scandal, when extra scrutiny and negative questions become the norm.
But at the heart of any good interview, the facts need to be correct. This seemed to be a problem for Labour MP and Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott who struggled to explain how a pledge to hire 10,000 extra police officers would be funded.
The shadow home secretary tripped up when asked by LBC host Nick Ferrari how much the key law and order pledge would cost. She initially suggested the bill would be just £300,000 - equivalent to a salary of just £30 per year, before repeatedly correcting herself.
Eventually, Abbott appeared to find the right page in her briefing notes, and gave the full costing for the policy at £298m a year by the end of the next parliament.
As campaigning drew to a close, however, Abbott was forced to step down from her position as Shadow Home Secretary as a result of ill health, but this did not stop her winning a landslide victory in the 8 June general election as she held her seat. Jeremy Corbyn said that shadow policing minister, Lyn Brown, will stand in for Abbott for the duration of her ill health.
Read more: Why great organisations tell stories - and yours should too
The incident, recorded on video, went viral with Abbott and the Labour Party being derided in many quarters for their grasp of simple figures, ahead of a vital UK General Election – applying added pressure to the party’s leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Such incidences show why media training can be so important, as how executives handle media enquiry and present themselves on TV, radio, newspapers and online can either be a saviour or make things 10 times worse.
Here are 4 hall of shame car crash media interviews
Sean Rad, CEO, Tinder
Just one day before the initial public offering of parent company Match Group, Tinder boss Sean Rad made unflattering comments during an interview with Britain’s Evening Standard newspaper, which could have potentially offended female users.
In the interview, Rad admitted being “addicted” to Tinder, saying “every other week I fall in love with a new girl”. Furthermore, he misused the word “sodomy” to describe attraction to an intellectual woman. As a consequence of the interview going viral online, Match Group quickly filed a document with the The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) saying it did not condone Rad’s remarks and that he was not a Match executive.
Tony Hayward, former CEO, BP
The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig off the coast of the US and Mexico in 2010 made the headlines for the deaths of 11 workers and the largest environmental disaster in American history – with thousands of tonnes of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico.
With tensions high, BP chief executive Tony Hayward came under extreme pressure from the public to resolve the crisis, and cracked under the pressure with an infamous unguarded remark during a television interview. Hayward said: “There’s no one who wants this thing over more than I do. You know, I’d like my life back.”
He was quickly forced into a grovelling apology: “I apologise, especially to the families of the 11 men who lost their lives in this tragic accident.”
Hayward was replaced as chief executive later the same year.
Robert Benmosche, CEO, AIG
Given the $173billion (£135.1bn) spent by the US government, and taxpayers, to bail out multinational insurance firm AIG following the 2008 financial crash, the later decision by AIG bosses to award up to $450million (£351m) to employees, who worked in the unit responsible for massive losses at the insurer, was widely-criticised.
The company’s chief executive Robert Benmosche defended the bonuses, but, in doing so, made a terrible PR blunder during a Wall St. Journal interview by saying that criticisms of those bonuses were as bad as Southern white supremacists lynching African-Americans.
He said the criticism of the bonuses “was intended to stir public anger, to get everybody out there with their pitchforks and their hangman nooses, and all that — sort of like what we did in
the Deep South. And I think it was just as bad and just as wrong.”
The comments led to requests for Benmosche to resign, most notably from US Congressman Elijah Cummings, from Maryland. Benmosche met with the congressman and issued a non-apology apology, describing, “the enormous fear AIG employees felt about their safety and the safety of their families because people in positions of public responsibility were actively encouraging the vilification of our people”.
Natalie Bennett, former leader of the UK Green Party
Abbott isn’t the first politician to fall foul of an interview with radio station LBC’s Nick Ferrari. Natalie Bennett, then leader of the Green Party, experienced – what she described as – an “absolutely excruciating” interview performance to kickstart her party’s manifesto for the 2015 General Election.
In a discussion filled with awkward long silences and stuttering, the Australian-born politician was asked how much taxpayers would have to spend to meet the Green Party's pledge to build 500,000 new council houses.
After failing to remember the figures, she eventually admitted she did not know, before being handed a piece of paper which said it would cost just £2.7billion – equivalent to £60,000 each to build. Miss Bennett insisted this could be funded by hiking taxes on private landlords - but then failed to say how much this would raise either.
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