Piers Morgan’s Big Win: Christine O’Donnell Earns an “F” for Walking Off a CNN Interview and into a Firestorm

As seen in Commpro.bizIt has happened many times before, but the trend seems to be growing lately. Recently, rapper/singer Chris Brown did it on Good Morning America. Paris Hilton did it to ABC news reporter, Dan Harris. Sarah Ferguson did it on the Australian version of 60 Minutes. And, last week former Tea Party Senatorial candidate, Christine O’Donnell did it on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight.
“It” is walking out of an interview because reporters asked them questions they obviously did not want to answer. Not a cool move, folks. The reporter, unless he or she has been a completely unprofessional louse, will always win. The “walker” will always be viewed as a coward with something to hide.

When The Going Gets Tough, the Unprepared Run

Last week, former Senate candidate from Delaware, Christine O’Donnell, went on the CNN talk show, Piers Morgan Tonight, to promote her new book. According to O’Donnell, her book is a memoir about her religious beliefs and how she became a conservative political activist. Face it. If it had not been for her extreme points of view and her past media circus acts, Morgan would have had little interest in having her on his program. During her Senate campaign, she became a controversial figure because of her strong anti-gay marriage position, not to mention the famous, “I am not a witch,” campaign ad that was spoofed on Saturday Night Live. So, from her past history, O’Donnell is great kindling for an interesting interview.

During the interview Morgan asked her to elaborate on her views on same-sex marriage—views she acknowledged that she addressed in her book. O’Donnell refused. When Morgan pressed and asked why she was unwilling to discuss something already in her book, O’Donnell became defensive, argumentative, and said Morgan was being rude. Refusing to answer other questions she did not like, she is seen looking off camera with a get me out of here look on her face. Moments later she ended the interview saying she was leaving, had her assistant block the camera with his back and left the set. The rest is YouTube history.

Successful Book Promotion: Grade F; Walking Out of an Interview: Grade F-

No author wants to give away the “secret sauce” in their book when promoting it, but the goal of a book tour is to tell enough to entice the public to buy it. It is also an opportunity to be seen as someone likable with a good story to share. After all, we like to buy things from people we perceive we like. O’Donnell’s behavior missed the mark on both fronts.

O’Donnell has certainly been in the media spotlight enough to know her extreme views on hot issues will be questioned. She acknowledged that her view on same-sex marriage was addressed in her book.Yet she was completely unprepared to answer questions on the subject. Book promotion means talking about the book. So, Morgan was not out of line, by any means, asking her about it. But, by refusing to discuss what she wrote in her book on the issue, O’Donnell appeared to be weak and unable to credibly support her beliefs. By walking out in the middle of the interview, she not only blew the opportunity to effectively promote her book, she appeared to be unprofessional and petty.

Media Coaching Advice

If you are associated with any controversial topic, 99.9 percent of the time you will be asked about that issue, no matter what the agreed upon topic is for an interview. Be prepared to answer those tough questions. Anticipate those questions. Get a media coach to help you learn how answer tough questions then smoothly redirect the line of questioning elsewhere. But, when you are promoting a book you have to expect, and prepare to answer, any question on any topic in your book. When questions get tough, do not act like a temperamental child and walk out of the interview. That garners about as much admiration as we give a real child throwing a temper tantrum.

Don’t Want to Get Your Goose Cooked?

There’s an old saying, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” And no kitchen is hotter than that of a reporter interviewing a person already surrounded by controversy. So, if you have already been in the media “hot seat” once, you had better be prepared to take the heat every time you face a microphone. If you can’t take that heat, then you had better lie low and stay out of the public eye.