Since it was announced that Lance Armstrong would sit down Oprah Winfrey to address the doping allegations against him, speculation among the media and the public has been off the charts as to whether the interview with the cyclist would begin his road to redemption. Or not. PR News asked Karen Friedman, who runs media training firm Karen Friedman Enterprises, to monitor and critique Thursday night’s part-one interview with Winfrey on her OWN network (part two will air tonight). Here’s Friedman’s scorecard:
If Lance Armstrong truly wanted to win back the hearts of so many he disappointed, he should have started the interview like this: “Yes Oprah, I used drugs and I am not asking for forgiveness. I lied and made bad decisions. I was a jerk. But I want to humbly and sincerely apologize to those who told the truth that I tried to discredit. I want to apologize to their families. I was wrong. I have no excuses other than arrogance and a total disregard for other people.”
Scores are rate one to five, out of a possible total score 25.
Armstrong’s tone, words and demeanor appeared sincere and heartfelt, but it was quite practiced so it’s hard to tell what is real and what is self-serving. At times he seemed almost detached, referring to himself in the third person, but then he would pause and come across as humble and almost embarrassed. Is he sincere because he is genuinely ashamed and wants to look deep within to become a better person or is he simply sorry he got caught? After all, he repeatedly said he would stop at nothing to win.
ANSWER THE QUESTIONS
As soon as the interview started, Armstrong admitted doping during all of his seven Tour de France victories and said it was all lies. While he answered many questions, he didn’t clearly answer the question: why now? He said he didn’t have a good answer. He did confess to wanting to control everything and said he could not have won without the drugs and even admitted to being a bully. But he said he didn’t feel bad about cheating. If so, then why did he go to so much trouble to conceal it? Armstrong said he wasn’t in charge of the team, but yet he was the team's co-owner and made key decisions. So is he still trying to distance himself from his actions?
While an apology alone at this point is useless, I kept waiting for him to apologize to those who told the truth while attempting to expose him. He needed to explain why he tried to take down others with him and he needed to apologize to cancer patients and survivors who trusted him. While he did explain why he took drugs and even referred to his former self as a jerk and an “arrogant prick," his explanation fell short of the no-holds-barred conversation that he promised Oprah.
From the start, Armstrong looked nervous and uncomfortable, hands clasped in lap to crossing and uncrossing legs, pursing lips, smiling at odd times and scratching his head. While his body language with Oprah was softer and less confrontational than we’ve seen, he has admittedly been lying for years. That means acting for years.
COMMITTED TO A BETTER FUTURE
If Lance Armstrong is truly committed to becoming a better person and living a better life, then perhaps he should have been working toward that all along in a personal, private way. Maybe that means truly apologizing to the other lives he ruined or mentoring other athletes and young people to help them learn from his poor judgment. But he chose his rebirth with Oprah, which could mean that he’s just another high-profile person trying to repair his image, once again making it all about Lance.
Total Score: 9 (out of 25)
Karen Friedman, author of “Shut Up and Say Something,” can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.