Friday Classic Clip: You're Stuck On Stupid (2005)
A reader named Jim Garrow recently sent me a clip from a few years back that I missed at the time – and despite being six years old, it’s a perfect example of why it’s rarely a good idea to argue with the media.
On September 20, 2005, Army Lieutenant General Russel Honore gave a press conference about Hurricane Rita, which was fast approaching the U.S. coastline. Reporters asked him to compare the government’s response to Rita to that of Hurricane Katrina, which had occurred just a month earlier.
It was a fair question. But Mr. Honore didn’t like it:
Mr. Honore’s goal was understandable. A major storm was fast approaching, and he wanted to give people in the affected area the information they needed to protect themselves. Questions about Hurricane Katrina, though fresh in people’s minds, were not going to allow him to accomplish his mission.
But when he accusingly pointed at a reporter and said “You are stuck on stupid,” he undercut his own objective. His belligerent answer became a news story, taking up precious column inches and minutes of airtime that should have been used to convey the information he needed people to know.
Mr. Honore simply could have said:
“Folks, there will be plenty of time to answer questions about Hurricane Katrina after Hurricane Rita passes. Right now, our mission is to keep people safe from this storm. I’d ask your help to get the critical information to people that they need to know, and will focus all of my answers on the imminent threat facing us.”
Debating the media – even when justifiable – is rarely a smart move (unless the debate itself is part of an intentional and well-planned media strategy). That’s because the debate itself usually becomes the news story, obscuring the message you hoped to disseminate.
Next time you think about debating the media, hear my voice in your head. It will be saying: “You are stuck on stupid.”
Do you have a favorite classic clip? Please leave your favorite links in the comments section below – we will occasionally classic clips on Fridays.