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The 15-Seconds Blog

  • What I Meant To Say…

    Pundits, spokesmen, and other people interviewed on TV often get away with making overly broad generalizations. But Michael Goldbarb, a representative the McCain campaign, got caught on CNN yesterday making an assertion he couldn’t back up. Check out the video below.

    In the interview, Goldfarb said that Barrack Obama “hangs around” with anti-Semitic people. CNN anchor Rick Sanchez pressed him to cite one example beyond the case of Rashid Khalidi which is somewhat in dispute.

    Goldfarb got the “deer in the headlights” look — and said “we all know” who he was talking about without providing any specifics. Um, no we don’t.

    Of course, if you are being interviewed, your goal should be to never get yourself that far out on a limb.
    But if you do overstate your case during an interview and get called on it, rather than trying to bluster your way past mistake, the proper way to deal with the situation is to imply that perhaps you were not clear as you should have been and then re-state your point citing something that you can plausibly back up. For example, Goldbfarb could have said:

    What I meant to say was that we all know that he has associated with a number of people of questionable character and judgment — not just anti-Semitic as in the Khalidi instance –but also other people such as…”


  • Exit Stage Right

    Whether in corporate councils or campaign politics — when accusations of crime and credibility are at stake – it never helps when you “look guilty,” run from the media, say “no comment” or simply ignore reporters and cameras. Always make sure you exit stage right.

    Poynter Online has a story today from the very contentious Minnesota Senate race.

    In this case candidate Norm Coleman was dogged by a pesky reporter who wanted to question him on a $75K payment the Senator's wife allegedly received from campaign supporter (who also happened to be the wife's employer.)

    The allegation may be a little thin since the law suit concerning the claim was reportedly withdrawn the same day it was filed. Whether there was any basis to the charge or not, Colman made it look more credible by his actions.

    Whether a captain of industry or a sitting Senator, the right way to handle something like this is to stop, smile broadly and say to the cam
    era something like:
    "This campaign/corporation hasn't done anything improper. Since this frivolous lawsuit was dropped almost immediately, there seems to be agreement on that. This was merely a failed attempt to sully a reputation. My staff will be happy to answer your questions in more detail at a later time."
    That took 15 Seconds to deliver! Coleman then could have turned on his heel and driven off triumphantly rather than looking like he was ashamed. Check out the video below.

    One other lesson Norm Coleman should learn from this media ambush — always have the getaway car ready. A driver should have been in the vehicle ready to go. In this case the candidate’s apparent bodyguard (the big, bald guy) fumbled around getting the candidate seated before going around to the other side, finding his keys and starting the vehicle . That misstep gave reporters an extra 15 seconds to shout questions at Coleman’s closed window. A potential damaging 15 Seconds!

    While we recommend never running away from the media — when it is time to go… you need to be able to make a quick exit.


  • Never Answer A Hypothetical Question

    One of the most basic rules for people being interviewed is: Never answer a hypothetical question! Apparently Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin either doesn’t know — or doesn’t believe in the rule.

    ABC’s Elizabeth Vargas in an interview today asked Palin what she would do if she and John McCain lose next Tuesday. Will she just go back to Alaska or try to remain a player on the national scene with an eye toward 2012?

    There is no good answer to a question like that. Any substantive answer just gives legs to the notion that you don’t think you are going to win. Here is what ABC reported:

    “In an interview with ABC News’ Elizabeth Vargas, the Republican vice-presidential nominee was asked about 2012, whether she was discouraged by the daily attacks on the campaign trail, and would instead pack it in and return to her home state of Alaska.

    “I think that, if I were to give up and wave a white flag of surrender against some of the political shots that we’ve taken, that would bring this whole … I’m not doing this for naught,” Palin said.”

    Even though Palin went on to say that she believes she and McCain will win this year — the only politically savvy way to answer that kind of question is to say something like:

    “I will not speculate about hypothetical questions — we intend to win this year and therefore your question is moot.”

    Instead Palin “committed truth” — answering the question directly but giving the media red (moose) meat to play with. Below is how CNN’s Wolf Blitzer handled the news: