The Three Worst Video Media Disasters Of 2014

It’s hard to believe, but this is the fifth consecutive year I’m naming the worst video media disaster of the year.

In 2010, the award went to British Petroleum CEO Tony Hayward, who told cameras “I’d like my life back” after his company’s massive oil spill killed 11 workers.

In 2011, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) nabbed the award, for obvious reasons.

In 2012, Senate candidate Todd Akin (R-MO) became notorious for his claim that “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

In 2013, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford nabbed the prize for making a vulgar comment about oral sex.

Who will join their ranks this year? Read on…


Disaster Strikes



3. Bill Cosby’s Crisis Management Backfires

If Bill Cosby is innocent of the 20 or so accusations of rape and sexual assault being leveled against him, he is engaged in one of the worst reputation management strategies in recent memory.

Bill Cosby AP Screenshot

Cosby’s media interviewing downfall began when he agreed to speak with NPR about his art collection. But when the interviewer asked him about the accusations, Cosby refused to speak, forcing the host to repeatedly inform listeners that his guest was simply shaking his head back and forth.

Shortly thereafter, The Associated Press released video of Cosby refusing to answer questions about the accusations on camera—and trying to intimidate the reporter by invoking his “integrity” and insisting that they “scuttle” that part of the interview. In so doing, the once-beloved television icon demonstrated how he exercises power behind the scenes.

It’s impossible to see how the 77-year-old reclaims his career and restores his reputation. His scheduled NBC program has been canceled, Netflix pulled a comeback special, and concert venues pulled out of scheduled stand-up dates. At this point, the accused serial rapist might consider himself lucky to be living life outside a prison cell.


2. Michael Bay Flees The Stage

This entry is less consequential than the other two on this list. But when Michael Bay—the director and producer whose films include Armageddon, Transformers, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre—had a technical failure during a January speech at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, he lived the public speaking nightmare that keeps so many people up at night.

Bay fumbled when he realized his teleprompter wasn’t in the right place. And without a scriptwriter nearby, Bay was at a complete loss. So he stopped. And restarted. And stopped again. And then, when all else failed, he walked off the stage, accompanied only by a mumbled “I’m sorry.”

This one is painful to watch. (And credit goes to his interviewer, who tried to bail him out and treated the moment with respect.)

1. Donald Sterling’s Racist Tirade

When Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was caught on tape making racist comments about black basketball players, many people—including me—were conflicted about the violation of his privacy (the recordings were made without his knowledge). His comments were loathsome, but few of us would want our private comments to be leaked to the world.

All of those concerns flew out the window, however, when Sterling voluntarily agreed to an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. His feckless apology led quickly to another burst of racist comments, such as this one:

“Jews, when they get successful, they will help their people. And some of the African Americans, maybe I’ll get in trouble again, they don’t want to help anybody.”

He also took the opportunity to attack NBA legend Magic Johnson (who announced he was HIV positive in 1991) by insisting Johnson was a bad role model:

“Here is a man who…acts so holy. I mean he made love to every girl in every city in America. And he had AIDS, and when he had those AIDS, I went to my synagogue and I prayed for him…Is he an example for children?”

Shortly after this interview, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he would force Sterling to sell the team. By the summer, Mr. Sterling was no longer the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.

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