There were many media disasters from which to choose in September.
I could have chosen NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s press conference, which failed to satisfy anyone. I could have selected President Obama, who gave his critics easy ammunition by saying, “We don’t have a strategy” to deal with Islamic State. Finally, I could have named this Toronto school board trustee for delivering an illogical interview.
Despite good arguments for all of those media moments, I kept coming back to an interview Mike Tyson conducted with a Canadian news anchor earlier this month (this monthly feature was always intended to highlight the serious, the sublimely ridiculous, and everything in between).
According to Mashable, Tyson was “in Canada to promote his one-man show,” during which time he met with and endorsed Toronto Mayor Rob Ford (who subsequently dropped out of the race due to serious health issues). But when Tyson sat down with Nathan Downer on Toronto’s CP24, one of the host’s questions upset him, and he looked like he might take a chunk out of Downer’s ear.
Warning: This video contains numerous obscenities and one scary-looking tattoo. It is decidedly not safe for work.
The question that sparked Tyson’s expletive-laden tirade was this:
Some of your critics would say, ‘This is a race for mayor, we know you’re a convicted rapist, this could hurt his campaign.’ How would you respond to that?
Those “some say” questions—which can be journalistically dubious—are ripe for rebuttals that challenge the premise. Tyson did exactly that, beginning his answer reasonably: “I don’t know who said that. You’re the only one I know who said that.”
But then Tyson lost it, calling the anchor a “piece of s–t,” saying “f–k you” on live television twice, and threatening the host when reminded he was on live TV (“What are you going to do about it?”).
Tyson should expect to face questions about that conviction, which can be easily deflected: “I paid my debt to society, have been out of prison for almost 20 years, and am here to talk about my one-man show.”
Instead, interviews such as this one show that he still has the same volatile temper he’s always had—the same one that led to charges of domestic abuse in his marriage to Robin Givens, a rape conviction, and being disqualified from a heavyweight title fight for biting off a piece of his opponent’s ear.
Despite all of those incidents, Tyson has enjoyed an improbable comeback in recent years, including an HBO airing of his one-man show and a scene-stealing cameo in The Hangover.
I’ve always had reservations about the wisdom of Mike Tyson receiving a full Hollywood comeback my uneasiness aside, “Brand Tyson” has been doing quite well in recent years. But this interview might—hopefully, in my view—slow his public return to favor just a little.
Brad Phillips is author of The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need to Know Before Your Next Interview. He is also the president of Phillips Media Relations, a media and presentation training firm, and blogs at Mr. Media Training, where a version of this story first appeared.