PT 79 | Coronavirus Briefings

 

More than ever, we need better and truthful communication from our leaders about the COVID-19 pandemic. Disappointingly, what we have are Coronavirus briefings full of unhealthy dialogue between President Donald Trump and the journalists. In this episode, Bill Stierle and Tom dive deep into the current virus communication and how truth is purchased in that process. As frustrating as the situation is, journalists need to know how to work around the President’s way of communicating, recognizing that he has limiting beliefs and that they need to reduce emotional reactions. Bill and Tom set up scenarios that show better ways of communicating, highlighting the importance of being emotionally sober to bring out the truth.

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Coronavirus Briefings: Why Journalists Need To Reduce Emotional Reactions To Bring Out The Truth

Bill, I know we’re going to pick up where we left off and talk about the virus communication, purchasing truth, and maybe get to some tips to reduce emotional reaction that we mentioned briefly last time. I’d liked to start because it’s fresh in my mind with what’s happening in these daily Coronavirus briefings at The White House, which they’ve moved to the Rose Garden so everybody outside can move the chairs farther apart for all of the journalists. This is happening daily. I’ve been disappointed with how some of the journalists have been handling their questioning that is not very skillful. They’re trying to fact check the President live in the briefing and it’s backfiring on them. The thing that’s disappointing is I’m not even sure the journalists realize or care that it’s backfiring on them.

They do care. It feels frustrating. It’s not a healthy dialogue. It’s not a dialogue that is in service to the public. The pursuit of truth or information from the President needs to be done in a different way. That’s the thing to land on, Tom.

Let me set this up because I am curious what you would do differently for some of these reporters or how you would coach these journalists to ask the questions in a different way because it’s tragic how this is happening. For example, a CNN reporter asked the President. He starts by reading out the President’s past remarks. He’s like, “Mr. President, I’d like to get you to speak to some of the statements you’ve made in the past that we have it under control.” He’s setting dates like, “On March 4th, it’s going to go away like a miracle and we have this under control.” He repeats 4 or 5 statements. As he’s doing it, you can see the President’s demeanor shaking his head, getting frustrated, blood boiling probably behind the podium and he’s getting ready to pounce. He starts a question with, “What do you say to the American people who heard you make these statements in the past, and now we are in a different situation or a dire situation?” The President takes the opportunity then to attack the reporter saying, “Why would you ask such a nasty question?” Using that word, nasty.

It’s similar pushbacks, fake news and catchphrases per se. The hard part about this is if I imagined myself coaching these reporters and letting them know how to communicate better with not this President but generally the American public. You need to start off by taking the things they say and putting them in the frame that the President meant them, which is I want to empathize with the motive that the President said the thing. Even though it doesn’t meet the need for truth or it might be exaggerated, I want to place the phrase that they said in the motive that he said it. That’s the mental step that they’ve got to take a hold of. Think of it as a picture frame. The frame holds, augments and even draws out different elements of the picture.

“It’ll be like a miracle. It’ll go away. There are five and it’ll go down to zero very soon.” The President stands there and says, “It’s true for those five people, it went down to zero. It went away for those five people. One of them died. That’s a part of the going away.” I’m not focusing on that. I’m focusing on the truth that eventually it will go away. I’m not going to talk about when that going away is going to take place. I’m going to promote optimism and reality the way I would like everyone to see it. You could do that with the truth. You can set the intention. A company can set a vision even though they’re not there. The company could say, “We’re going to grow to $1 million by the end of the year,” and the CFO goes, “We’re not even close to $1 million right now. That’s not true. How the heck are you going to get there?” The job of that CEO or the job of a marketing person is to look into the future and tell everybody where we’re are going, not to tell everybody where we are. You see the frame that the person’s doing it in, state that frame and then empathize with that frame. Give me an example of something that the President said, and then I’m going to do it in real-time so that you can feel and the reader can learn what the best strategy is to talk to somebody that speaks like this.

Let’s take another one that happened. Yamiche Alcindor from PBS News asked the President about his past statements to some of the governors around the country that he wouldn’t call them, the governors of Washington and Michigan, that they haven’t been appreciative of what the administration is doing. He told Mike Pence, “I wouldn’t even call them.” She framed a question about that trying to get the President to admit that what he said was if the governors don’t show him respect, they’re not going to get what they need for their state. That’s what she was implying and what the President on its face was saying. She’s trying to put that fact back in his face.

All of a sudden, you’re sitting with this situation where he tells Mike Pence this. He feels justified to say, “If somebody says something negative about the United States, I’m not going to take it on this watch because we are the country of Make America Great Again.” That’s the frame. I’ll pretend I’m Yamiche Alcindor and you’re the President. I’m saying, “Mr. President, when you said this to them, I’m guessing you would like the governors to be optimistic and positive about the situation that they’re in, and work to promote to the people a sense of optimism, that they’re doing the best they can as well as the federal government is doing a great job. You’d like them to promote a positive image in order to reduce the tension and reduce the ability for the people to get worried and scared. You don’t want them to panic. Isn’t that correct, Mr. President?”

He would jump on that and say, “Absolutely right.”

He has taken his first step towards reality. Even though he’s admitting to something, it’s like he doesn’t see this job as being truthful. He sees this job as being promotive. He doesn’t see this job where he has to be honest about safety and protection. He sees this job as a way to promote America as number one even though we’re doing a terrible job compared to certain other nations. We’re not going to compare ourselves to other nations because we are already number one because we say we are. The motive has got to be framed the way that needs to. He says yes to the picture that you’ve painted for him because it’s his picture. It’s the one he’s standing at. Then you could work your way to the second question.

You can set an intention with the truth. Click To Tweet

That does make sense to me, framing it and getting him to say yes because otherwise, he shuts himself off to the real questions.

He becomes defensive, then he uses all the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The first thing he does is defensiveness. The second thing he does is criticism. The third thing he does is contempt and the fourth thing he does is withdraw. He might go to withdraw early.

I’ve seen him and he did exactly that. He did defensiveness. When Yamiche Alcindor or Jim Acosta from CNN asked this kind of question, the President said, “I didn’t say that.” At least with Yamiche Alcindor, I know he said it. She’s quoting him back to himself even though he did and we all know he did, you could play the tape. He then starts to spin it and said, “What I said was this.” What he’s really saying is, “What I meant was this. You’re spinning it the wrong way on me.” He starts attacking the journalist saying, “That’s a nasty question. You’re a nasty journalist.”

That’s criticism, name-calling, then contempt, “You’ve got fired. You used to work for another place and now you’re working over here. Why is that?” It’s like, “Because I’ve got a better job.” She can’t get her truth in because all of a sudden, she’s got to be defensive on the truth and not take the bait. It’s disheartening because they don’t know that they are walking into the trap because his languaging skills and his mindset is where it is. He’s playing the same record over and over again. It’s been a winning formula for him for years. Ronald Reagan had a winning formula. He had the same speech for 15, 25 years when he was the governor. It’s the same speech as he did when he was the President. He would do it. It’s consistency. To be on the other side of it, Bernie Sanders had the same speech for 30, 40 years. They stay in those places because there are followers. The people that are the herd behind them get activated by that speech because they have heard it so much, they’re in agreement with it. They’ve heard it so much that they believe it. The only thing is you can sell truth and you can sell lies and beliefs with the same strategy.

The playbook is the same. Edward Bernays’ Propaganda book is the same. Whether it’s Joseph Goebbels in Germany or FDR in Washington, DC, they’re using the same book. What do we do with all these Americans coming home? We need to set them on the path to have the America we would like. All there were images of an American family of four standing in front of a four-bedroom house in the suburbs. That’s the image that they sold to GIs coming back, “This is where you’re going next.” Was that a bad thing? No. What it did was set America moving in that direction.

I understand the frame and empathizing with the President. You’re getting him in agreement with you about that first thing you say, so he doesn’t go through the four horsemen of the apocalypse. What is the second question that then starts to reveal the truth in a way that the President will participate in the process?

“Mr. President, this is not about helping or preventing the governors from doing work because you’re having Mike Pence call them, talk to them and provide them support. It’s because you don’t like the way they communicate, you don’t want to talk to them. That’s something that you don’t want to do and you would rather have somebody else to do it for you. Is that correct?” “Yes, that’s exactly right.” What I did was to say that the President doesn’t like some people and likes other people. It’s a problem if it’s Nancy Pelosi because she’s supposed to be on your team and you’ve got to figure out how to recruit her on your team, which he could. He just didn’t know how to do that.

The President is trying to minimize the importance of certain states that have governors that are not on the President’s team. Couldn’t Yamiche Alcindor come back to him and say, “Mr. President, what about all of your supporters who live in those states?”

Never use the phrase, “What about.” You’ll walk right into the reporter’s hell right there. They’ll use, “What about,” on the other side too. It’s not like they use, “What about,” all the time. The way to avoid that is to take a look at phrases or words that are not familiar, which are essential to democracy, cooperation and collaboration. You can’t get those two words until you get somewhere between 3 to 5 yeses out of his mouth and make him look good. “What cooperation and collaboration might look like, I’m guessing Mr. President, is to find out where the most cases are and send them the ventilators. Is that what your guys are thinking?” “Yes.”

PT 79 | Coronavirus Briefings

Coronavirus Briefings; The job of the CEO is to look into the future and tell everybody where they are going, not where they are.

 

I asked a testing question but he doesn’t know it. The testing question is, “Find out where the disease is and get them the ventilators. Is that correct?” “Yes.” It allows him to be optimistic. It is handing him something that he can promote and he can work. The funny part about it is the only group of people that are handing him self-enriching sentences is Fox News. They are handing him self-enriching sentences that are not fully helping the nation because they’re giving him sentences that he can say yes to. He’ll say yes to one from the Democrats if it makes him look good, if it helps his need for respect, acknowledgement and loyalty.

If you’re a journalist and you’ve been educated to seek the truth maybe in a very direct way, not in a skillful way as what you’re describing, that you have to go with the President with empathy and compassion to frame this for him and get him to say yes multiple times. How do you coach that journalist to pivot or get to the truth after getting these multiple yeses?

If I were coaching them and if I had a group of them in front of me, here’s what I would do. I would take five of the best reporters that I know are going to be in there and say, “What questions do you want to ask and what angle are you going after?” I would set them all up to ask questions to be empathetic with his feeling, his need and getting him to say yes with those frameworks. It’s like an acknowledgment that you’re doing a wonderful job, outstanding job, the best ever. You like the acknowledgment that you’re getting a level ten. It looks like the State of Florida has been receiving that level of support, “The governor there calls me every day and he says this and this.” What Donald Trump doesn’t know is he disclosed a thing called favoritism. The next reporter says, “It sounds like the Governor of Florida is being persistent and providing you some of the things that you would like that you’re able to provide him some of the things that he would like?” “Yes, all I want is for people to be appreciative.”

He admitted to another quid pro quo, but he didn’t do the United States of America. He did the appreciative governors of wherever. Because the money in politics has divided us so much, because the money has provided larger things, there are not enough people closer to the center of the voting bodies because they’re here. Because it’s like that, Donald Trump has got to solidify the one side. Say this one to me and watch what happens. I’ll be a reporter. Say that what I would like is the churches to be open.

“What I would like is for everyone to be gathered together and the churches full by Easter Sunday.”

“Mr. President, I’m guessing you’re feeling optimistic and you’re setting the intention for Americans to get back towards worshiping the churches because you’re a man of faith and you’d like us as a nation to return to the ways things used to be. Is that correct?”

“Yes.”

You’ve got your yes, now your follow-up is, “I’m guessing a part of you might be feeling torn because you know that the disease is growing and we might not get there. Is that correct?” “Yes, we might not get there.” I gave him an off-ramp. It makes him look good. Fox does this all the time. Sometimes they keep egging him on and then all kinds of stuff, all nuts and bolts come out of his head. I know this is going to maybe bug some audience especially on the conservative side of the fence. When you think about your kids when they were 4, 5 or 6, that specific age, that’s when they’re formulating language patterns that are called winning formulas. This is my winning sentence. This is a sentence that is going to get me somewhere. The parents could be modeling these sentences, be optimistic, don’t talk about the downside, keep talking about the vision and the upside. This is where I would like this vision to go.

I’m guessing that his dad or his mom or both modeled that don’t talk about the downside. Keep talking about how great it is and how great it is that people are listening to you, and people will give you what you want, just keep talking on the positive side of things. “This is going to be a great building. I’m going to do this with this. This is the next thing. It’s going to be wonderful. It’s going to be stupendous. We have the best sinks.” Whatever they say, repeat it back to him, “We’re going to have the best of that. We’re going to do that.”

Being a promoter means you need to pronounce a vision. Click To Tweet

In marketing, part of that is necessary because the person you’re trying to build enrollment is the promoter-in-chief. He’s not the Commander-in-Chief because commander means you have to make decisions. Promoter means you need to pronounce a vision. All he does is pronounce a vision. When he pronounces the vision, he walks it back, then he pronounces a vision, he walks it back. The Commander-in-Chief says, “Here’s where the honesty thing and here’s the best course of this.”

The commander right now that’s most evident in the media is Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York. He is giving more scary honesty and telling people like it is, which a lot of people find refreshing and to be an example of true leadership.

When your kids are falling asleep at night, you’ve got two different kinds of parents that can come into the bed. One is going to be saying, “There’s no monster under the bed.” The other parent says, “Is it okay if I check for you to see if there’s a monster under the bed?” “No, don’t.” “I see you feel scared and you want me to be here with you. Isn’t that right?” The kid might say, “I don’t want to go to bed right now. I want to connect with you a little more.” It’s not about the monster under the bed. It’s about connecting with me.

Maybe it was the fear of the monster under the bed, but instead of you saying, “There is no monster under the bed,” and arguing the facts, you ask the question, “Would you like me to look and see if there’s a monster under the bed?”

They need some support with that. The reporters are treating this like it’s a professional tennis match trying to hit hard shots in their direction and he can’t hit those balls back. All he does is stand at the net and he either holds the net up so the ball never goes over, “That’s a nasty question.” The ball never goes over the net. It doesn’t count.

The journalists are giving the President opportunities to deny what he said before. It’s undeniable that he said the things he said before. We’ve got the recordings of it and they give you transcripts.

The President doesn’t know the difference between when you say something, that there are multiple meanings for the things you say. He’s expecting the way a four-year-old is. He’s expecting that the parent or the nation understand the meaning that he needs, not the various meanings that are behind the sentence. A 4, 5 or 6-year-old doesn’t have a range of awareness to know that when you say this, that is not a truthful sentence at this moment.

You mix a 4 to 6-year-old with a wealthy real estate agent, the builder that’s a promoter of buildings, you’re going to get somebody that has a very narrow type of communication. He’s never going to say, “Here are the errors of my ways.” Even when he gets out, he’ll say this is the best presidency ever, even though there is wreckage everywhere. He did it every single time one of his businesses failed. Every single time within a couple of months of the casinos coming out, he wound up being okay leaving and the Atlantic City is holding the bag.

These journalists like Jim Acosta, Yamiche Alcindor and others like them, a lot of them or anybody who’s not Fox News, who tries to fact check the President and get him to comment on it, they’re never going to win doing that. They’re not going to accomplish the bigger goal. What’s sad is I see them often later after the press briefing is done. They’re live on their network and saying, “The President didn’t answer the question,” and they feel somehow justified.

PT 79 | Coronavirus Briefings

Coronavirus Briefings: The first thing Donald Trump does is defensiveness. The second is criticism. The third is contempt, and the fourth is withdraw.

 

They tried to call the President out on the facts that he said this the other time and now he’s trying to say he didn’t say it. They somehow feel, “We’ve done our job.” In reality, we all know that he said those things in the past. It doesn’t matter. They feel like they’re doing their job. They walk away feeling like, “I did my job. I called him out. I didn’t let him get away with thinking that all of us believe what he’s selling.” The President uses it to continue to rally his supporters and say that the fake news media is being nasty and it further divides us. These journalists need some skills.

They would be successful if they started with a core set of words. This is something we talked about in a past episode. If they said, “Mr. President, the need for safety is very important for the people of various different states. How are we looking to get some safety in those environments?” You’re keeping him close to the word safety, which is what the public needs to hear about. It gives him a little bit of a platform and to see where he’s going to spin. You could follow that up with, “Mr. President, it sounds like protection would look like this. Is that what protection would look like?” “Yes.” “Mr. President, I’d like to get some clarity about something. I’m sure you’re well-aware that the standard of medical practice is that with an infectious disease like this, the nurses need to change their protective gear going from one patient to the next. Throughout the day, they might have to change, and because of the standard of care to protect the patients, they might need to throw out the mask from one room to go into the next room in order not to carry the disease to another patient. I’m guessing you’re aware of the volume of masks that are needed inside the hospital?” “Yes. We’re getting the volume that they need.”

He won’t say the stupid thing like, “Why do you need 30,000, ventilators and where are the masks going?” You’ve got to help the person gain perspective because he doesn’t have public health experience and perspective. If I was asking him in his profession, watch this, “Mr. President, in building this new hotel and there are 200 rooms, would you be willing to tell me what’s the possible number of toilets are going to be in these 200 rooms?” He’ll say, “There are 200 toilets in there.” Why? Because he’s built hotel rooms. He knows this.

“Mr. President, I guess if you put a more expensive toilet in there or a less expensive toilet, there’s a range of revenue that you’re going to make.” “Yes, because I like doing the best, I would do the toilets at this price because that’s the type of facility that we’re making here.” He’s in his wheelhouse then. Right now, he’s not and because of his life circumstance and the wealth that he inherited, he’s never had to work through a conflict or stretch his thinking beyond the narrowness of his profession, which had to do with this real estate thing and this reality show thing. The reality show thing is still the promoter-marketer person. That’s why he talks about ratings.

The President has latched onto the fact that these daily Coronavirus press briefings are getting a lot of people watching. They’re getting a lot of ratings. This is his reality TV show. Do you think that the reporters who were in the mainstream media, even though they would want to pursue truth, if they pursued truth the way you’re suggesting, showing empathy and compassion to the President and then getting him to participate and answering some questions?

I don’t want him to answer any questions. I’m looking for the reporters to do something they don’t know or not aware that it’s a part of their job, which is any way you can get support to the American public for information, any way you can get the truth to show up, pick that strategy. The current strategy that you’re going called adult-to-adult is not working. If I’m going to bring this President to the truth, I need to empathize with where he is. Talk about what empathetic value it is. Is it about safety? Is it about care? Is it about family? Is it about spirituality or religion? Is it about the community? Take the air out of those balloons first, “Mr. President, you are being hopeful and optimistic because a big part of your constituents are very religious. You want to give them some hope that maybe they can worship together back in church. That’s part of the motive by you saying that.” “That would be nice if that could happen, but we’re not sure right now.” “You’re feeling some doubt about it because you’d like this to happen, at the same time, people are telling you that it’s not going so well out there with the virus?” “That’s right.” You’re allowing him to pivot and turn.

I agree with you, Bill, and this is very limiting that these words and these languages and the technique that can be used. Here’s the question that I’m curious about with you. Would that process and skill of a journalist like you laid out be as dramatic on the 24-hour news channels? Would it get as many ratings for them as it would be with the fact-checkers? I’m wondering if the fact-checking gets more ratings because it’s a little more controversial versus the empathy model. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be done because it brings the truth out.

What it will do is provide calm and peace to the listener. What it also will do is reduce the conflict between media and the President, which then allows the listener to feel and experience less doubt and skepticism towards the press and deal with the ambiguity of not knowing, instead of making the press wrong and the President right, which is the false choice that they have to make.

It could be that the press is trying to say, “We’re right and the President is wrong.”

Creating capitalism is terrible as a public servant. Click To Tweet

It’s the straight talk that the press needs to do after, “The President was being optimistic and today he was being more realistic. He’s being more optimistic,” instead of, “He’s walking it back.” I don’t want to hear that phrase ever again on TV. I want to say, “Today, he’s being optimistic. He’s promoting an optimistic message. He’s promoting more of a realistic thing.” The media then gets the listener not to hear them as, “He’s walking it back. He was lying and then doing this.” The President is looking to promote, to sell and to present to the American public this thing because he was choosing to protect the Americans by not getting them scared. He chose to not bring the news that he would like. The President was being hopeful that the virus was not going to come to the United States with his message that we have this handled. I don’t know what the President is thinking about this, but he’s expecting the government to work the way his businesses work, which is he says something and then everybody around him picks up the pieces. That’s the way his businesses worked. He didn’t fix anything with the things he said, he allowed other people to fix it. He said whatever he wanted to say and they would fix it.

Because he was the king of the business.

Creating capitalism is terrible as a public servant. We’ve got to get used to we have somebody in a mindset that doesn’t know how to speak from the heart fully. He’s telling his story in a promotive way with very clear propaganda messages, “Some people say this. I’ve heard people say this.” That’s all propaganda messages. “One person said that and I heard many people are saying that,” that’s propaganda. It’s saying, “I have somebody that I see as an expert that will make a difference.” I’m not expecting him to say anything. What this episode more is about how to get reporters to work with the person that’s in front of them. He calls them gotcha questions. As soon as the reporter comes off, she or he stands and says, “That line of questioning was the best questioning ever. Look at how good that reporter is.” The reporter is getting their need for respect met by their colleagues, but they’re not doing their job.

That is the point, isn’t it?

It’s not fully their job. Their job is to fact check but not in the way that they’re doing it.

They can reveal the truth, which in reality is a form of fact-checking. They can reveal the truth in a more skillful way using these different languages and words to reduce emotional reaction and reduce triggering the President to go off on a rant, which might be good for some TV ratings. Especially in this global health crisis that does not discriminate between what color you are, what age you are, what country you’re from. Revealing the truth has never been more critically important.

Let me give you another example of this. This one is a shot to my head. This is personal than what we can get to closure. When Ronald Reagan was dealing with the AIDS crisis, he was so much ignoring it. All the people around him were ignoring it because it sat and was affecting one specific community, the gay community. My brother died during that time from AIDS. When he was saying those things, the public health things that needed to take place need to have both a local response, “You’ve got to shut these bathhouses down.” That was something that came off top of my head.

I remember that was one of the earliest days. The doctors who discovered what was happening were trying to do that in San Francisco, which was the hotspot of AIDS.

That was one of the hotspots. Then New York City, where my brother lived in the artists’ community, it took a swath of people out of things. The efficacy of drugs was slowed. It’s the same thing. It’s just that the common person could get it. It wasn’t until Rock Hudson had it, when the President’s friend got it, that the President goes, “How could you get this thing?” It’s like Rock Hudson was Rock Hudson.

PT 79 | Coronavirus Briefings

Coronavirus Briefings: We’re fighting the virus on three fronts: the health part, the financial part, and the accuracy and truth of the conflict part.

 

Also when it became clear that first it ever happened, hemophiliacs started to get it because their drugs were made from blood and they would get blood transfusions. There’s the whole idea of tainted blood that anybody could get.

Many people had died that were in that space. There were many public agencies that failed because they were voting for the dollar and not voting for the people, which is pretty much what Donald Trump is saying. The blinders on this type of mindset need to be done with compassion and empathy in order to get them to turn to do the right thing. As soon as Rock Hudson showed up and all of a sudden it was this whole Rock Hudson thing, everything started moving. The drugs are being made, the right doctors were being consulted and the right manufacturers were making the right stuff. Magic Johnson is still around because of it.

If that timeline was moved back and President Ronald Reagan would have done it earlier, my brother would still be alive. You can see how this gets close. I’m going to finish on a somber note here. My staff meets, the five of us meet. When we got on the call, the first thing we do is check-in. I have a new administrative assistant. She said that the past weeks have been terrible. I go, “What’s up?” She goes, “My dad died.” All of a sudden, we’re going ruh-roh and there are five of us on the call. I go, “Tell us a little bit about what happened.” Her dad’s first cough was either on a Monday or Tuesday. He’s in the hospital by late Wednesday and Thursday and took his last breath on Sunday from the COVID virus.

We never know when it’s going to get close to home. We never know how close. The question is, “Now what? Where did he get it? How did he get it in? By the way, you’re my staff member. Did you get it?” We’ve been away from each other for weeks. We’ve been away from each other, my entire staff. We’ve done a lot of virtual stuff anyways, but she was the person that came to my house. If she would have come to my house on Friday after taking care of her dad, that would then be in my house because she had a connection with her dad. The sad part about it is we’re sitting there and going like here’s somebody we care about, somebody we work with. They’ve lost their father. It brings up everybody else’s issues about fathers. The rest of my staff who have challenges with the loss of their fathers and the absentee fathers. All of a sudden, I got this father thing in the middle of my meeting.

How long do we need to prolong this experience? What needs to happen for the President to have that experience? Does it mean, and is it that important, for certain news agencies to start running some raw footage of what it’s like inside the hospital, stick cameras around, meet the need for privacy for the patients and the doctors? Also, watch what it looks like when the halls stack up. A few months ago, I took a friend of mine to the hospital. I know what it’s like when you come in at an un-opportune time. They’ve got beds lining the hallways waiting to get into the next available room. This is going to be 10 or 20 times worse than that. People aren’t going to even make it to the room to get to the ventilator. They’re not going to have that level of support. Are there enough outlets in the isles of the hallways of the hospitals to handle it? These kinds of questions go on my head because they are not getting in a room. The room has already got somebody in there who are waiting for the next person checking out. The next person isn’t checking out. They’re checking out through dying. How do you feel when you hear me tell that story?

It’s very sobering, serious, sad and concerning. Not all of us have known somebody who’s gotten sick and died from this. That does change your perspective at most. Is it going to take a member of the President’s family to get it and get seriously ill and maybe die in order for him to change his perspective?

We talked about this a little bit. It’s like a flat Earth mindset, “Unless I see the Earth is round, I’m not going to believe it’s round.” It’s a little bit similar to that. The reporters have got to do a better job of recognizing that he has limiting beliefs that when he hears that the hospital used to order this many face masks and now is ordering 30,000 face masks, they went from 3,000 to 30,000, and he’s shaking his head. He goes, “I don’t understand.” You’ve got to ask a question that supports the President’s understanding. Not say, “Why are you so ‘stupid’ that you’re not listening to your advisors or you’re not asking good questions?” He’s never had to ask good questions. He’s never had to reflect. He’s never had to slow down to face facts or face losses. He’s always been able to spend his way out of losses. Every legal thing that he’s gone into, he’s bought everybody off because he’s had the money to throw at it, “So what? I’ll just pay the attorney to stall it until the other side runs out of money.”

He’s not caring about the human consequence on the other side. You killed somebody else’s business by filing bankruptcy, by not paying your invoice, by not being in integrity with the agreement you started with. He’s not that guy. The big thing about it is for the news reporters to become emotionally sober when he says something that is optimistic. It’s not truthful but his best winning formula is to be optimistic. He then walks it back and puts a little realistic in it, but not enough to overcome the optimism that he started with. He’s tried to drive the Titanic after it hit the iceberg. He’s doing the best he can as this part of the nation takes on water. How well we’ll get back to shore? How well we’ll have lifeboats for everybody that gets infected? That’s what the respirators are for. That’s what the masks are for. You’ve got to have enough life rafts. We don’t. It’s too away from you, Tom. It’s me, my assistant and her father. The question is, when? You know somebody or a family that had to go through the AIDS thing.

I have a family member also who died of AIDS.

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All of a sudden, it’s real. The Earth is round. It’s real because you see it and this new place, it’s like who’s grandma, who’s a young person with a disease or whatever. It doesn’t impact certain age groups, but that’s not what you’re supposed to look at. You’re supposed to look at safety and protection. What does stability look like? How do we get clarity and information? How do you protect the community? Those are the keywords. How do we get predictability with masks and the materials that they need? How to get reassurance? How to get certainty? How to get trust? Those are the keywords that the public needs to be talking from and the news media needs to be talking from. What do you think, Tom? Do you think we landed pretty good?

Yes, that was a very good discussion and very illuminating.

The next time, what we might need to do is to formulate media sentences and maybe get a half dozen or dozen responses, and the idea of because one reporter is only getting one question and one follow-up. The reporters could do a better job if they’ve got their list of questions because if another reporter asks that question, you might not want to come back to that question again. You have to have a second one. What happens is they need to line themselves up. It’s a little more team sports. It would be supportive to the President too because then what happens is he gets to say yes like he wants to. He gets acknowledgment and gets recognition, and they get the opportunity to bring the truth out in a new way. That’s what they’re not fully doing.

Wouldn’t that be amazing? I’ll look forward to that discussion. The President wouldn’t know what hit him because it’s not any one journalist asking a series of questions that he walks out on the plank with. It’d be a coordinated effort of a bunch of them and they can each day-to-day take turns who asks the pivoting question, and the others help put him in that condition where he’s feeling good.

It’s very helpful for all of us that are listening, so we’re not fighting the virus on three fronts. We’re fighting the virus on three fronts. There is the health part, the financial part and the accuracy and truth of the conflict part that doesn’t need to be there. Is this a financial question or is this a virus question or a health question? Those two need to stay close to these two. What happens is we’re getting dragged over here to the conflict regarding truth and accuracy, into this third column that we don’t belong in. It’s not helpful. We’re not trying to fight out the fourth state or the press, which is it’s not the Senate, the Congress, the Executive. It’s not the legal piece. It’s the press, which pursues facts and information. It discovers things that are not legal or at the line of not being legal.

Bill, I’ll look forward to that discussion.

Tom, more to come. It’s great to visit with you. Thanks, everybody.

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