“Fake News!’ is all the rage. Everyone seems to be doing it, especially those caught in the media cross hairs with no where else to go. That was certainly the case for Rep. Claudia Tenney, Republican from New York. Following the horrific mass school shooting in Florida, Tenney had been quoted, saying during a radio interview “what is interesting many of these people who commit mass murders are Democrats”.
As normally happens, she did not appreciate being called out by the media. Here is the video:
Tenney clearly believes she is being treated unfairly be the news media and she has every right to to question them if she believes she was misquoted. You can hear her on-camera say, “all I am saying is that everyone is responsible, not just Republicans”. Okay, I’ll buy that explanation. But Tenney became flustered, and let her emotions get the best of her. Instead of a tactful pivot she created a viral moment, and not the good kind.
How should she have handled this?
Don’t lose your cool. Ever. Don’t take any media opportunity personally. Instead, understand they (news media) have a job to do. Calmly explain why you believe you were misquoted. Offer proper context. If the news media won’t let you finish your thought, explain to them that interviews are two-way communications and you can’t continue the interview if not allowed to complete your thoughts. Take control.
Never use “fake news” as your fallback if in a tight spot. Or in any spot. While you may believe that most news is fake, it is no defense. In fact, calling into question the media’s credibility and legitimacy puts them on OFFENSE and believe me, that is not where you want to be. For most people, “fake news” claims automatically trigger negative connotations including you got caught, you are lying, or covering up. “Fake News!” is the new, “No comment!” A horrible strategy. Instead, say, “you’ve asked and offered an answer. I am not addressing this question any further. If you have another question, I would be happy to answer it”. If the media still won’t cooperate, just walk away. Say nothing. Keep your cool!
The mic is still on! Did you hear her mumbling under her breath when she ended the interview. For me, that was the best part and what made the whole thing a viral moment. Stop talking. The mic is always on. Walk away. Never let emotion get the best of you.
Rich Dubek is a two-time Emmy award winning TV news reporter with more than twenty five years of news media experience at the local and network level. He is President of the Dubek Media Group, specializing in expert media training and on-air coaching, and full service video production. The Dubek Media Group is based in Tempe, Arizona.