During 23 years with the BBC, and 40 years in journalism (when he was trained to use simple language, avoiding jargon), for our Editor Welshman Phil Parry blunders (or ‘gaffes’), whether wilful or not, have always featured prominently, and this is now highlighted by US President Joe Biden’s latest slip, confusing a hispanic society with a black one!
Earlier Phil has described how he was helped to break into the South Wales Echo office car when he was a cub reporter, recalled his early career as a journalist, the importance of experience in the job, and making clear that the‘calls’ to emergency services as well as court cases are central to any media operation.
He has also explored how poorly paid most journalism is when trainee reporters had to live in squalid flats, the vital role of expenses, and about one of his most important stories on the now-scrapped 53 year-old BBC Wales TV Current Affairs series, Week In Week Out (WIWO), which won an award even after it was axed, long after his career really took off.
Phil has explained too how crucial it is actually to speak to people, the virtue of speed as well as accuracy, why knowledge of history and teaching the subject is vital, how certain material was removed from TV Current Affairs programmes when secret cameras had to be used, and some of those he has interviewed.
He has disclosed as well why investigative journalism is needed now more than ever although others have different opinions, how the coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown played havoc with media schedules, and the importance of the hugely lower average age of some political leaders compared with when he started reporting.
It almost beggars belief that he is leader of the most powerful country in the world!
The latest gaffe by US President Joe Biden coming after numerous earlier ones, might have finished the career of a senior politician, but as the alternative candidate at next year’s election is likely to be the controversial right-winger Donald Trump (see tomorrow’s story) who, although he faces several criminal prosecutions, is still almost certain to be the Democratic candidate, he may continue in the post.
Mr Trump is even under attack from leading figures in his own party after he failed to show up at the latest televised debate.
Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who has tried to style himself as an alternative to Mr Trump – despite sharing similar ideologies – said: “He should be on this stage tonight.
“He owes it to you to defend his record where they added $7.8 trillion to the debt. That set the stage for the inflation we have now”.
Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor, added that Mr Trump: “Hides behind the walls of his golf clubs and won’t show up here to answer questions like all the rest of us are up here to answer”.
The Democrats must be rubbing their hands at all the bad publicity surrounding Mr Trump, because there is quite a bit about their own likely candidate in next year’s Presidential elections.
Apart from not turning up to TV debates, in the most recent example about Mr Trump, he was found to have committed fraud FOR YEARS while building the real estate empire that catapulted him to fame and the White House.
Judge Arthur Engoron found that the former President and his company deceived banks and insurers by massively overvaluing assets and exaggerating his net worth on paperwork used in making deals and securing financing.
But Mr Biden too is also an unattractive option (although less so than Mr Trump), and he addressed the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, getting it mixed up with the Congressional BLACK Caucus.
At a speech in Washington he praised the work of a nun called Sister Norma Pimentel, saying: “The Congressional Black Caucus embodies all (her) values”.
The day before he had bumped into the Brazilian flag during a media conference at the UN, and forgot to shake the hand of Brazil’s President Lula da Silva as he left the stage.
Earlier a Press Conference of his in Hanoi had come to a bizarre and abrupt end when Mr Biden’s media advisor announced there would be no questions, and jazz music interrupted his speech.
He had said: “There’s a lot of lying dog-faced pony soldiers out there about global warming”.
Mr Biden declared that it came from a line in a John Wayne film, however movie-buffs have been unable to find this in any John Wayne picture; there IS a 1952 Western called Pony Soldier, but it stars Tyrone Power not Mr Wayne, and mention is made there of a ‘Pony Soldier’, however the phrase is that it has the “….tongue of a snake”.
Perhaps he meant this?!
Mr Biden also told reporters in the same Press Conference: “I tell you what, I don’t know about you, but I’m going to go to bed”.
I suppose this is, perhaps, more understandable given the likely jet lag, but even so his media advisor was probably right to announce suddenly that there would be no questions, because you don’t know what Mr Biden might say next!
His mistakes in the past have been legendary.
While at a pub in the Irish town of Dundalk earlier this year, Mr Biden managed to mistake the All Blacks, (New Zealand’s rugby team), for the notorious Black and Tans British paramilitary unit that fought in a terrible way against the IRA a century ago.
The error was labelled “cringeworthy” or merely “unfortunate”, depending on who was doing the labelling, and it got even more attention after the White House edited it out of the official transcript.
He stumbled twice in two weeks on the stairs of Air Force One, and a slew of news stories followed.
But it isn’t simply his age (Mr Biden is 80) which makes his advisors nervous of what he might say (although Mr Biden’s blunders seem to be coming thick and fast recently), because he has made similar slip-ups when he was younger.
In February 2009 speaking to members of the House Democratic caucus who were gathered in Williamsburg, Virginia, for their annual retreat, he proclaimed: “If we do everything right, if we do it with absolute certainty, there’s still a 30 per cent chance we’re going to get it wrong”.
He had, of course, to appear relentlessly upbeat and 100 per cent positive about his party’s policies.
His slips of the tongue have always been seized on by the media, and in September 2008 Mr Biden declared: “I’m told Chuck Graham, state senator, is here. Stand up Chuck, let ’em see you. Oh, God love you. What am I talking about? I’ll tell you what, you’re making everybody else stand up, though, pal!”.
He then realised that Mr Graham was confined to a wheelchair.
In the same month, he suggested someone else could do the job better than him, saying: “Hillary Clinton is as qualified or more qualified than I am to be Vice-President of the United States of America. Let’s get that straight. She’s a truly close personal friend. She is qualified to be President of the United States of America. She’s easily qualified to be Vice President of the United States of America. Quite frankly, it might have been a better pick than me. But she’s first rate”.
Yet Mr Biden giving the impression that somebody else could do the job better than he could, is not ‘first rate’.
It’s also not ‘first rate’ to bump into a flag, fail to shake the hand of an elected president, and get confused about who you are addressing…
The memories of Phil’s astonishing decades-long award-winning career in journalism (during which the mistakes of senior politicians were always reported) as he was gripped by the rare disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order it now!
Regrettably publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.
Tomorrow – Phil looks at how Mr Biden’s likely rival in the Presidential election, Mr Trump, has AGAIN wheeled out the cliché ‘WITCH-HUNT’, to describe the latest legal storm to engulf him…