Public Relations Fail: Mark McGwire, the Cardinals and a Crowded Hallway

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It started out so well for Big Mac. The Cards hired George W. Bush's former press secretary and master of atonement Ari Fleischer to help the team's new hitting coach gently break the news that he was on the juice.

After a misty-eyed interview with local/national broadcaster Bob Costas, media critics at the New York Times praised Big Mac's poise on the screen. He appeared legitimately ashamed. We were all supposed to move on and forgive and forget.

Of course, that didn't happen. The rest of the press wanted to see McGwire squirm and they got the opportunity at a botched McGwire appearance this past Sunday at the club's Winter Warm-Up event.

The impromptu press conference was a disaster. Though the AP headline read "Fans in St. Louis Applaud McGwire," the reality was that Mac hemmed and hawed through six painful minutes of questioning before being funneled out the back door by the club's PR-team.

As the folks at Joe Sports Fan point out, these faces "probably aren't good while engaged in an 'honesty' session": Video of the interview and analysis after the jump...

Here's the complete video via KMOV:

Mark McGwire Winter Warmup Interview from JoeSportsFan.com on Vimeo.

And here's a good take on things from Yahoo's sports blogger:

Honestly, the whole situation was really strange. After their well-crafted initial strategy, why did McGwire's handlers allow him to answer questions in such an uncontrolled environment? Seeing as how McGwire has trouble answering questions in a controlled setting with one interviewer, why place him in a hotel hallway while facing a hungry media mob?

It seems obvious that McGwire would've been much better served by going with the original plan of conducting the press conference at a podium. That way the pace of questions could have been controlled and he would have had time to regroup between each one.

A reason for the venue switch was never given. Maybe he didn't want to stage such a circus at the Cardinals Winter Warmup. Maybe he wanted the benefit of the big exit door that he immediately used as an escape hatch when the session got a little hot.

Whatever the case, it was a big misstep and made for a silly and unnecessary scene.
What he said.

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