Executive Rewind: 3rd Party Questions

Hoof-in-Mouth Disease and 3rd parties

You always can expect 3rd parties, especially in controversy

The typical 3rd party questions that come up in interviews usually concern a piece of research or the comments of an expert.  But, sometimes it’s especially controversial. 

For instance, you may recall that in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Mayor Ray Nagin proclaimed New Orleans would again be a “chocolate city.”  The comment, taken by many as a message of exclusion rather than inclusion, got him in trouble.  In reaction to the fallout, he tried to rationalize his way out of it.

Then, in a first anniversary piece on the storm and its aftermath, 60 Minutes interviewed the mayor for a piece by Byron Pitts.  Pitts is an excellent and long time CBS correspondent who has covered the New Orleans situation extensively over the past year.  He asked some tough yet important questions, including one about the tons of debris still piled up throughout the hard hit lower 9th ward.

Nagin bristled over that one and lashed back about it being five years later and New York still had not fixed that “hole in the ground.” Nagin was at first defensive, including during an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press with Tim Russert. Russert offered him opportunities to apologize.

So what’s the lesson here?  Don’t say something stupid, or that you’ll be sorry for?  Well, yes, that’s always preferable.  But, being human, you might slip up sometime and it requires some contrition on your part.  People usually are willing to give you a pass when you admit a mistake.  But if you’re unwilling to admit it, prepare yourself for the fallout.  And beware the over-used, often abused, explanation that you were taken “out of context.”  It may be true, but that excuse more times than not has proven to be false.

hoof-in-mouth disease
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