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I’m Sorry, Please Interview Me

18 January 2013 5 Comments

Exactly when did the media interview become the format of choice to say, “I’m sorry?” For weeks we’ve been speculating on what Lance Armstrong would tell Oprah and what Oprah would ask. I wondered if he’d have a round of media training in advance of their encounter. After all, who could forget James Frey and the grilling he got for misleading Oprah and members of her book club with fabrications in A Million Little Pieces. But this would be different, less personal. Lance had not conned Oprah, he’d conned the world of sport – for years.

(Armstrong admitted that he cheated and that’s the bottom line. Commentators who accuse him of cunning for still managing his media image doesn’t make sense In a crisis, rule one is to salvage all you can.)

So many wrong doers make their way to the interviewer’s chair. Mel Gibson sat down with Diane Sawyer, following his DUI anti-Semitic rant.  Michael Richards, a fraidy cat, made his poor excuses for using the N-word on David Letterman via satellite.  Governor George Allen when to Meet the Press with Tim Russert, after his “macaca” moment. And so it goes. Interviewers acting as surrogates, doling out sympathy or a scolding as needed.

You’d think in a crisis, people would want to fly under the radar with a taunt press statement rather than face questions. But the Q & A apology seems to be the way to go if you’ve a brand. If you don’t, no one seems to mind how you go about mending fences. A true apology has to be a leveling experience. For the famous that means a stage as big as their hold on the public imagination. That explains why they reach out to Oprah or Diane or David.

Posted by Bodine Williams




  • Megan said:

    It’s all about the timing. Say “no” long enough that an expectation of “yes” is created. As soon as the expectation is evident, these celebrities find it the appropriate time to finally admit and apologize. Or the time to interview; the new term for “I’m sorry” as you pointed out.

    Loved reading this piece.

  • bwilliams (author) said:

    Magan – Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Bodine

  • Gloria Roheim McRae said:

    Love this piece. Two reflections. First, I think it’s an unspoken truth that athletes have been using performance enhancement drugs for ions, and only few get caught. So second, I think it’s incredible noble and authentic for Lance Armstrong to take it for the team, in addition to owning his own culpability on national television. For all the criticism, the one thing we often forget when watching the new or interviews is that those people in the chairs are humans too. We all make mistakes, we can often make the blunder of a lifetime, but we are imperfect beings and when we are willing to take full responsibility for our actions I think that interviews are a perfect platform to set the record straight.

  • T H Beyer said:

    The Armstrong interview could be a cue for Oprah to institutionalize her
    redemptive format with a specific title: “Oprah And World: I’m Really Sorry And Here’s What I’m Going To Do About It.”

    There could be a lot of takers; they would come with apologies as already understood and the emphasis would be on moving forward as a better person; fallen
    sports stars, fallen business people, fallen celebrities, fallen politicians could
    line up for bookings.

    On further thought, the title could just be shortened to “Oprah And World…” and
    it would be off to the ‘redemptive’ races. Attorneys’ and PR agents’ efforts could
    be a whole lot easier and OWN has a hit show.

    If only it could be that easy…

  • Joan Kessey said:

    Good luck Lance – the whole world knows you lied. I think Oprah did a great job. Some commentators acted as if she should have turned down an interview with none of them would have refused.

    You’re right though. These celebs need an audience even when they screw up.