March 2011: The 5 Worst Video Media Disasters

Bombings! Bigots! Breakups! Broadcasting Executives!

That over-heated alliteration can mean only one thing: It’s time for the five worst video media disasters of March!

Here are this month’s top five media disasters, in descending order:

#5: General David Petraeus’ Bombing Joke

In a scene reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s controversial joke about bombing the Russians in five minutes, General David Petraeus greeted U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Afghanistan earlier this month with a joke of his own.

Petraeus asked, “Flying a little bigger plane than normal – you gonna launch some attacks on Libya or something?” “Yeah, exactly,” Gates responded, as both men laughed. Little did they realize that a news microphone was listening in.

The quip was cringe-worthy at the time, but turned out to be prophetic. The U.S. joined attacks on Libya just two weeks later.

4. Newt Gingrich Explains His Divorces

You have to give likely 2012 GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich credit. He knew he’d have to explain to socially conservative voters why he cheated on and left his two sick wives.

But it was impossible to predict he’d blame his behavior on his overwhelming love for America. By his logic, a presidential candidate who cheated on and left seven wives would be even more qualified to lead.

Click here to see my full analysis of this incident, “Bad Apologies Are Worse Than No Apologies.”

#3: Domestic Abuser Chris Brown Grows Up. Or Something.

Singer Chris Brown, who was convicted of beating his then-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009, appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America to promote his new album. But Brown got edgy when anchor Robin Roberts asked him about the case.

“It’s not really a big deal to me now,” said Brown, apparently unconcerned that people might still hold the fact that he beat a woman against him. He then talked about “going through everything I went through,” making clear he sees himself as the primary victim.

But the real action came after the interview, when he threw a tantrum so severe that scared ABC staffers called security. Oh, and he threw a chair through a window in his dressing room, endangering pedestrians on the sidewalk below. Charming.

#2: Herman Cain and Neil Cavuto Talk About The Unpatriotic American Muslims

There is a beautiful poem by a German pastor inscribed on the walls of Washington, D.C.’s Holocaust Museum. It reads:

“They came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

I cite that poem because possible GOP candidate Herman Cain, a Tea Party darling, smeared all American Muslims by saying he would likely not allow a Muslim in his cabinet:

“I would have to have people totally committed to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of this United States. And many of the Muslims, they are not totally dedicated to this country. They are not dedicated to our Constitution. Many of them are trying to force Sharia law on the people of this country.”

So, I’m speaking up. Do a few extreme American Muslims meet his criteria? Sure. But his dangerous fear-mongering goes well beyond a radicalized few and smears an entire group of patriotic Americans. Worse, anchor Neil Cavuto treats Cain with kid gloves, seeming to regard Mr. Cain as that loveable uncle who occasionally goes a bit too far.

The number two slot is shared equally between Herman Cain and Neil Cavuto this month.

#1: NPR Fundraiser Ron Schiller Blasts Republicans and the Tea Party

Chief NPR fundraiser Mr. Schiller went to lunch with a couple of men claiming to be Muslim donors. It turned out they were Republican activists with a hidden camera.

During the lunch, Mr. Schiller shared his views of the Tea Party:

“Basically, they believe in white, middle America, gun-toting — it’s pretty scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people.”

It’s rarely a good idea to brand an entire group as racist. That he generalized about the motives of an entire group of people was bad enough, but that he did it while NPR was in the midst of an already heated debate about its public funding was flabbergasting. His comments not only led to his immediate resignation, but the resignation of NPR’s CEO, as well.

And his comments directly led to the House of Representatives voting to strip NPR of its federal funding. The Senate will probably prevent that from happening, but NPR’s P.R. woes will continue.

Click here to see my full analysis, “If You Don’t Want It In Print, Don’t Say It At All”

Okay, so this was a heavy month. Here’s a fun bonus!

BONUS: Former Senator Doesn’t Like That Darn Rap Stuff

Former Senator Alan Simpson, who served on President Obama’s entitlement commission, appeared on the Fox News Channel to talk about Social Security and Medicare reform. But he went slightly off-message with a cranky pants rant that made him look more like Grandpa Abe Simpson than Senator Alan Simpson.

Note to grandparents: It’s always going to be funny if you think Eminem is called “Enema Man” and Snoop Doggy Dogg is known as “Snoopy Snoopy Poop Dog.”

BONUS, PART TWO: If you like the Enema Man as much as Sen. Alan Simpson’s grandchildren, here’s a music video. (Not suitable for work)

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April 4, 2011: Weigh In On Our Question Of The Week: How Do You Control Fear When Doing Public Speaking?

April 3, 2011: The Five Things I’d Tell GoDaddy’s CEO About His Elephant-Killing Crisis Right Now