Friday, February 22, 2013

Memorable, Interesting Liberal Follies

What were Premier Christy Clark and her staff thinking when she agreed to do a live phone interview on Courtenay, B.C.'s 98.9 JetFM with Justin "Drex" Wilcomes on Dec. 19, 2012? Were they thinking?

FM rock radio is perhaps the last bastion of male-dominated, politically incorrect programming, where fart jokes and breast-size banter are still alive and well. (Drex advised me, via Twitter, that he has never made such jokes.) If the format wasn't so popular with listeners, there would be no advertisers, and the boring Celine Dion and Phil Collins would monopolize every FM frequency... but I digress. Politicians seem to shy away from the FM rock format, but not Clark, who had previously appeared on 99.3 the Fox in Vancouver.

Clark's interview was famous for the clip that went like this:
Drex: "Andrew in Comox wants to know what it's like being a MILF?"
Clark: "Ha! Y'know, I take that as a compliment."
Drex: "Oh good."
Clark: "Y'know, it's one of those things, better MILF than a cougar, I think."
Drex: "That is true."
Clark: "Tell him thank-you very much, I appreciate it."
It even made Britain's Daily Mail (where the province was misspelled "British Colombia" on first reference).

If you need to know what MILF means, here's the clip from American Pie.

Clark has a chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, operations manager, press secretary, director of communications, director of issues management and director of policy (all very-well remunerated), but no documents were released to indicate any interview pre-planning happened. Handlers for government politicians are normally very fussy about times and venues for interviews. Ratings, demographics and the message the politician wants to convey are usually the prime considerations before putting a politician in front of a microphone or camera for a one-on-one, live or recorded.

Government Communications and Public Engagement told me it had no records. The Office of the Premier provided 15 pages of emails and a one-page "private and confidential" letter to Clark from Margot Micallef, the president of Jet FM's parent, Vista Radio, which operates almost three-dozen stations around rural B.C., including Prince George.

Micallef's Jan. 7, 2013 letter came three days before it became publicly known that Drex was sacked. It is hard to tell from the few lines of Micallef's letter that weren't censored whether it is an apology. Micallef did not respond to my interview request.

Aussie Drex landed on his feet rather quickly with 99.3 the Fox on the overnight and weekend shifts.

Emails from citizens to the Premier's office about the MILF incident were mixed. Here are excerpts:
  • "I apologize on behalf of our local radio host for handling that question so poorly. Women in politics do not deserve such base treatment, right?" 
  • "What filth you are, a disgrace to every woman, everywhere. I didn’t think there was a politician with less class than (name censored) but lady(?) you take the cake." 
  • "You should have immediately made it clear that the question was inappropriate. No one, man or woman, should ask such a question and you should have made that clear and refused to answer. Instead, you made things worse." 
  • "Funny but good answer Christy. Not only am i a Liberal Member and supporter but i also support your answer 100%, and yes, the correct answer too!" 
  • "This fellow was completely out of line, and Premier, you should have got up and walked out on this guy. How disgusting!" 
  • "I live in Alberta, but I would so rather you were our Premier than that one we have. It would be wonderful to have a Premier with a sense of humour, and more importantly, it would be great to have a Premier that stands up for her province." 
  • "I am offended that as the present leader of our province, you have time to do such totally banal radio interviews but not to comment on the recent Port Mann Bridge incident, for example."
The prepared response from Clark's email correspondence clerks was:
BC’s First Family DayThank you for your email. The question in that live interview was highly inappropriate; it was shocking and unexpected, and the Premier was attempting to quickly move the interview back to matters relating to her work and her office. Your concerns about this have been noted and will be shared with the Premier in the days ahead. We do appreciate your taking the time to share your views and hope you will find this response helpful.
Since the MILF incident, Clark's handlers have promoted her motherhood, even including her son Hamish in advertising and publishing photos on Flickr, like the one of them together on Family Day. She appeared assertive in a keynote speech to January's B.C. Mineral Exploration Roundup and even looked older in a party TV ad.

And they included a Feb. 22 lunch stop at Crown Isle Resort in Comox (within Jet FM's market area), on Clark's tour to sell voters on the so-called balanced budget, which the NDP has labelled "bogus" and an Ipsos-Reid poll has found to be lacking believability.

Either the MILF incident was a poorly executed trial balloon, containing too much lead and not enough helium, or an innocent embarrassment the Liberals want to put way behind them.


RossK said...

Actually, a few months before the 'trial balloon' at JetFM there was a....

...Pilot at 'TheFox'.

And, all snark aside, I believe what the Premier had to say in the 'pilot' demonstrates that the prepared Email response, including the part about how the question from Drex was 'inappropriate' as well as 'shocking and unexpected', was, to put it mildly, balderdash.


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