Grading Obama: The President Commits a Horrific PR Blunder in His Friday Economics Press Conference
By TJ Walker, CEO, Media Training Worldwide
Every politician commits gaffes from time to time. Take, for example, Reagan saying, “We begin bombing (the Soviets) in five minutes” Or Romney’s “People are corporations my friend.” President Obama is unusually disciplined and, by my count, utters fewer gaffes per 100,000 spoken words than any other president in the modern TV era.
“The private sector is doing fine,” uttered by President Obama at his press conference on Friday, is a gaffe of monumental proportion. Like most gaffes, what Obama said was technically true: When you compare the employment rates of the private sector versus the state and local government sector, the private sector is hiring tons of people whereas government is committing massive layoffs of teachers and other public workers.
However, in politics, it’s not enough to say something that is factually true. Instead, you have to worry about whether something appears to be true and how it will appear when taken out of the context of the entire sentence and discussion. If there is anyway a 6 word sound bite can be used against you to make you look bad then it is, by definition, bad for it to come out of your mouth. Savvy politicians of all parties realize there is nothing more pathetic than complaining about being “quoted of of context.”
Obama’s statement was a horrific PR blunder for the following reasons.
- Republicans want the entire election to be framed around the economy. Obama’s quote allows them to redirect the media’s and public’s attention to the economy.
- Republicans wish to portray Obama as someone who is incompetent and clueless about the economy as a whole. This quote lends itself to that theme.
- Republicans have long pushed the message point that Obama is a “Socialist” who only cares about government and is at odds with those in the private sector. This sound bite feeds into this GOP talking point.
- Republicans have long worried that the super-rich Mitt Romney would appear to be out-of-touch with economic concerns of ordinary people. Obama’s quote allows for Republicans to attack on this issue rather than have to defend Romney.
- Obama has now provided footage to the Republicans to be played in TV ads again and again from now till election day. In six words, Obama has give the perfect TV weapon to his opponents.
Oh, and by the way, Obama’s message of the press conference on the need for Congress to pass parts of his economic stimulus? That got completely buried and is now even less likely to happen.
TJ Walker is the founder of a leading news/communications website TJWalker.com. Walker is also the “Inside Communications” columnist at Forbes.com and is a regular commentator for the Reuters Insider Network. “TJ Walker’s Secret to Foolproof Presentations” was a #1 USA Today bestseller, and a Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek Bestseller. As CEO of Media Training Worldwide, Walker has trained thousands of presidents, prime ministers, senators, members of parliament, CEOs, Nobel Peace Prize winners, professional athletes and Miss Universes.