Public figures don’t get to dictate the terms of a news interview

By now, you’ve heard about Christine O’Donnell’s encounter with Piers Morgan on CNN. She came on as a guest to promote her new book, “Troublemaker.” As part of the interview, Piers Morgan asked her about her position on gay marriage. She protested that she wanted to talk about what she wanted to talk about; when Morgan persisted, she walked off.

It wasn’t a smooth exit. She wasn’t in the same studio as Morgan. Her handler made the inept choice of walking in front of the camera to try to block the video. The audio continued, of course, until someone on O’Donnell’s end finally disconnected the satellite link.

O’Donnell protested that Morgan was being rude and creepy. Judge for yourself by watching the clip above.

Here’s the thing: If you’re a public figure, you have to be prepared for all eventualities. Morgan gave O’Donnell a forum for promoting her book, but it is his forum. Part of the deal is that he gets to ask the questions he wants to ask, and certainly his question was fair game.

With a little media training, and by keeping her wits about her, O’Donnell could have dispatched the question easily and moved on. She has an answer, which you can see here. Briefly stated, she says her position is the same as Barack Obama’s, that gay marriage is a question for the states to decide and that the First Amendment gives individual churches the right to decide whether or not they wish to recognize and perform gay marriages. Pretty straightforward stuff, and an answer that could have been practiced and delivered in 15 seconds or less.

If she wanted the free publicity on a news network, she had to accept the rules of the game, namely, that the interviewer gets to ask the questions, and the interviewee gets to handle them, deftly or poorly. If she wanted to be in charge, she should have bought an infomercial.

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2 Responses to Public figures don’t get to dictate the terms of a news interview

  1. Mary Kay Knief says:

    Of course, you are soooo right. I hate to think there are people who might believe Piers was “mean” to his interviewee. No. He was just doing his job. She came off as childish and out of touch with the realities of living in the real world. Have to admit, I’m glad to see her take her ball (er, book) and go home.

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