NEW YORK, N.Y. – The ten worst media disasters of 2011 include a politician who lost his place, a country singer who lost his job, and a celebrity who lost his show.
The media spokespersons were selected based on the impact of their gaffes. All ten people reinforced an existing narrative about their lack of preparedness for office, their lack of discipline, or their lack of compassion.
10. Hank Williams, Jr. Compares President Obama to Adolf Hitler
In October, country singer Hank Williams, Jr. was fired up during an appearance on Fox and Friends. While reflecting on a golf match between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, Mr. Williams quipped, “It would be like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu.” ESPN promptly dropped his theme song as its Monday Night Football opener.
9. Sarah Palin’s “Blood Libel”
Months before Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was shot in Tucson, Former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) released a “crosshairs map,” which placed a target over Ms. Giffords’ congressional district. In the days after the shooting, Ms. Palin was blamed by some journalists for the shooting.
Palin was upset by media stories connecting her to the crime; she was right that no evidence linked the shooter to her map. But she over-reacted, gracelessly blaming the media for committing “blood libel.” That term is most commonly used as an anti-Semitic slur referring to Jews murdering Christians. Her poll numbers immediately plummeted among Independents and Republicans.
8. NPR Fundraiser Ron Schiller Blasts The Tea Party
National Public Radio’s chief fundraiser, Ron Schiller, went to lunch with a couple of men claiming to be Muslim donors in March. It turned out they were Republican activists with a hidden camera. During the meal, Schiller called members of the Tea Party, “seriously racist, racist people.”
That he made those comments was bad enough; that he made them while NPR was already in the midst of a heated debate about its public funding was flabbergasting. His comments led to his immediate resignation and the resignation of NPR’s CEO. The House of Representatives voted to strip NPR of its federal funding; the Senate prevented that from happening – for now.
7. Rupert Murdoch Channels Tony Hayward
While testifying before the British Parliament in July, News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch was asked whether he accepted the ultimate responsibility for his company’s phone hacking scandal. Not only did he say “no,” but he delivered his answer without even a hint of humility. By delivering such an indifferent answer, he gave former BP Executive Tony “I’d like my life back” Hayward competition as the world’s most clueless corporate executive.
6. Rick Perry’s “Oops” Moment
During a Republican presidential debate in November, Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) confidently declared he would eliminate three government agencies – and promptly forgot what they were. For 47 painful seconds, Mr. Perry tried to recall the third agency he would eliminate. He finally gave up, shrugged his shoulders, and lamely said, “Oops.” That one moment likely sank any remaining chances Mr. Perry had of winning the nomination.
5. President Obama Jokes About Joblessness
With the nation’s unemployment rate above nine percent and millions of Americans desperate to find work, President Obama cracked a joke in June that few people found funny. When a questioner asked a serious question about the nation’s inefficient permitting process, Mr. Obama cracked wise about his two-year-old pledge to create shovel-ready jobs, joking, “Shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected.” Many people blasted the President for displaying an insensitive political tin ear.
4. Charlie Sheen’s Downward Spiral
There’s little funny about addiction, and Charlie Sheen’s dangerous spiral was sad to watch. Sheen stayed in the news for months, but it was his out-of-touch interview with sycophantic radio host Alex Jones in February that led to his dismissal from his top-rated sitcom, Two and a Half Men. In that interview, Sheen made vaguely anti-Semitic comments about “Men” creator Chuck Lorre, called Alcoholics Anonymous a “bootleg cult,” and labeled Thomas Jefferson a “pussy.”
3. The Herman Cain Affair
Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain was caught flat-footed in October when numerous women accused him of sexual harassment (another woman later asserted she had had a long-term affair with him). Mr. Cain changed his story on an almost-hourly basis, even arguing that a “settlement” meant something different than an “agreement.” Mr. Cain dropped out of the race in December, maintaining his innocence to a public that no longer believed him.
2. (Alleged) Penn State Child Rapist Jerry Sandusky Speaks
When former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky spoke to NBC’s Bob Costas in November about horrific allegations that he raped numerous boys, no one was prepared for his jaw-dropping answer to this direct question: “Are you sexually attracted to young boys?” It took Sandusky 16 seconds to say “no.” Instead, he began by saying how much he “enjoyed” young people and loves to be around them. Sandusky’s alleged actions, combined with Penn State’s ineffectual response, led to the firings of the University president and legendary football coach Joe Paterno.
1. Anthony Weiner’s Twitter Scandal
Self-immolations rarely come in more spectacular fashion than when Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) was caught tweeting naughty photos to strangers in June.
His approach to crisis management was to deny the charges and claim his Twitter account had been hacked; call a reporter a “jackass;” say that although he hadn’t sent the photos, he couldn’t rule out “with certitude” that the erect undies shot was of him; hold a tearful press conference to admit he had actually tweeted the photos himself; watch helplessly as a nude photo of his penis was released; and resign in shame. After Mr. Weiner resigned, a Republican won his seat, costing Democrats a critical seat in the House of Representatives.