Patterico's Pontifications

12/1/2007

Local Reporters Threatened by Celebrity

Filed under: Miscellaneous — DRJ @ 11:08 pm



[Guest post by DRJ]

Montel Williams has multiple sclerosis and he appears on behalf of the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, a pharmaceutical-supported organization that provides prescription medicines to poor people. Williams was recently in Savannah GA to appear at an event for the Partnerships “Help is Here Express.”

Before the event, Williams was interviewed by Courtney Scott, a 17-year-old high school journalism intern for the Savannah Morning News. Scott’s second question irritated Williams:

“Before the rally in Johnson Square, Williams stood for an interview with Scott. With her second question she asked, “Do you think pharmaceutical companies would be discouraged from research and development if their profits were restricted?”

It was a question she came up with after discussing the issue with her Advanced Placement English teacher.

Williams bristled. “I’m trying to figure out exactly why you are here and what the interview is about,” he replied. He asked if she suffered from any illness, to which she answered no.

“I’m here as a patient advocate talking about the fact that medications available today are saving people’s lives, that’s what saving mine and after that, this interview is done.” He snapped his fingers, said thanks and walked away.”

Susan Catron, the Savannah Morning News Executive Editor, defended Scott’s question but it’s what happened later that day that made news:

“Later, Scott, web content producer Joseph Cosey and intern Phillip Moore went to the Westin for an unrelated assignment featuring gingerbread houses at the hotel. Williams and his bodyguard were in the lobby, too.

“As we were preparing to film, Montel walked up with his bodyguard and got in Courtney Scott’s face pointing his finger telling her, ‘Don’t look at me like that. Do you know who I am? I’m a big star, and I can look you up, find where you live and blow you up,’ ” Cosey said. “At this time he was pointing randomly at all of us.” Moore and Scott corroborated the statement.

“He was really mad. He was angry at me,” Scott said. She is a 17-year-old senior at Jenkins High School working for the Morning News in an apprenticeship program through Savannah-Chatham public schools. “I wasn’t expecting him to come at me and go off, I was expecting him to say, ‘No hard feelings from before.’ I’m not sure if he meant ‘blow me up’ and ruin my career or really blow us up, but it was threatening.”

Williams later released a statement about the incident:

“I apologize for the misunderstanding,” the statement read. “I mistakenly thought the reporter and photographer in question were at the hotel to confront me about some earlier comments. I was wrong and I apologize for my overreaction.”

Scott conditionally accepted Williams’ apology:

“I won’t accept the apology unless he does it on his show in front of everyone,” she said, “because he embarrassed me in front of a crowd.”

Ken Johnson, senior vice president for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, “said the question would have been better directed to himself because he represents the drug industry, and Williams is paid to raise awareness of the drug program.” While Johnson agreed that Williams’ behavior was not acceptable, he also pointed out that “[m]ost people have no idea of the pain he [Williams] suffers because of MS.”

I am sympathetic to Williams’ medical condition but if he is going to appear on behalf of and be paid by a pharmaceutical organization, he should be prepared to answer questions like this. In any event, it was an excellent question and it sounds like Courtney Scott kept her composure in a difficult situation.

— DRJ

46 Responses to “Local Reporters Threatened by Celebrity”

  1. You are absolutely right. Williams’ abuse of his celebrity status is abominable and inexcusable.

    As an epileptic, I certainly wish the pharmaceutical industry all success and profits in developing better drugs. But PhRMA should think twice about employing Montel Williams as a spokesman. His inability to handle a basic question like that of Courtney Scott brands him as far too ignorant, not to mention vicious and self-important, to give the pharmaceutical industry a favorable impression among the public.

    I’d rather see more brave journalists-in-training like Courtney Scott than clueless television personalities like Williams. Shame on him.

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  2. Montel Williams picks fights with a girl while his body guard stands next to him?
    What a man.

    Perfect Sense (b6ec8c)

  3. Bradley, anyone who has seen Montel William’s show knows that he is an ignorant, vicious, self-important little twit. If the organization is willing to have him as a promoter after seeing his show, then they obviously don’t care about what sort of impression their spokespeople leave. The organization only cares that the spokespeople can draw press. And Williams can do that.

    Doc Rampage (ebfd7a)

  4. Be kind. MS can also cause mental and personality problems.

    nk (2e8319)

  5. Williams bristled. “I’m trying to figure out exactly why you are here and what the interview is about,” he replied.

    One would have thought “Famed Psychic” Sylvia Browne had told him in advance.

    David Ehrenstein (4f5f08)

  6. You would hope that someone would have come to the teenager’s aid while this sick old man was screaming at her. Too bad they didn’t have any recording.

    Using a spokesperson for a cause, especially a celebrity, is always a risk. Here’s hoping the Partnership for Prescription Assistance stops using this old jerk.

    xray (8cfb7a)

  7. The phrase “Do you know who I am?” really has only one response: “Yes, someone whose ego has destroyed their character.”

    SPQR (26be8b)

  8. Courtney’s job search after college has now been simplified: she can forget about 90 percent of the media hiring her. She obviously is immune to their Kool Aid.

    Patricia (f56a97)

  9. When a C-List Blabshow barker insults and threatens a 17-year-old, it’s time to drop him like a hot rock.

    This story needs a good push onto center stage as an object lesson in CDS – “Celebrity” Derangement Syndrome.

    What a jerk you are Montel.

    heldmyw (d8ebfd)

  10. Yes, he was rude which may or may not have been caused by his illness, but he is doing charitable work. I get tired of after every slight or disagreement someone has to demand the person be fired or kicked to the curb.

    d.s. wilson (ae8b35)

  11. “I won’t accept the apology unless he does it on his show in front of everyone,” she said, “because he embarrassed me in front of a crowd.”

    Now this is a smart young woman – she is absolutely right. You publicly malign and threaten, you better publicly apologize. She gave Montel a beautiful opportunity to man-up with some humility and redeem himself…or remain a self-consumed insignificant weenie.

    Its a shame the pharma VP felt the need to make excuses for Montel. But it sounds like a perfect match.

    Dana (bead19)

  12. d.s. wilson– “I can look you up, find where you live and blow you up” is not your average rudeness, nor even a slight or disagreement!

    Last time I checked, that could be taken as a threat of violence.

    Yeah, that’s EXACTLY what I want representing MY program!

    Foxfier (72422d)

  13. Damn, Ehrenstein beat me to it. Montel’s use of Sylvia Browne either makes him much dumber than he appears to be, or an opportunistic prick who preys on people’s grief.

    Anyway, people have problems – medical issues, family issues, other issues. To some extent, those may be reasons for some behavior.

    But threatening to blow up a person – and given the context, I don’t see an alternative interpretation to it than “into tiny little pieces,” sounds like a criminal threat in some jurisdictions.

    “I was having a bad day,” is an understandable, if lame, excuse for, “Screw off, [obscenity of choice]” But, “I can find out where you live and blow you up,” doesn’t have any excuse.

    –JRM

    JRM (355c21)

  14. That young woman has a great future if anyone is paying attention. Montel is a has-been with a little steroid psychosis probably.

    MIke K (86bddb)

  15. Last time I checked, that could be taken as a threat of violence.

    Depends on the statutory definition of criminal threats of the state it occurred in. Given all the circumstances, no prosecutor is going to file a complaint. Get over it.

    Yeah, that’s EXACTLY what I want representing MY program!

    It’s not your program. Again, get over it.

    d.s. wilson (ae8b35)

  16. nk, Williams has always been an ignorant, vicious, self-important little twit. Unless MS was effecting his personality fifteen years ago, that’s no excuse for him.

    This is a guy who when he was given the opportunity to host his own show TV show, a rare opportunity to contribute the national conversation in a way available to only a select few, decided that his contribution was going to be a remake of Donahue. What more needs to be said about his character?

    Doc Rampage (ebfd7a)

  17. You had a point in #10, d.s. wilson, but you’ve overplayed it now.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  18. d.s. wilson – can you please share with us the guidelines for what we can and connaot express outrage about on your blog?

    It’s not you blog?! Well then, get over it.

    sherlock (b4bbcc)

  19. Get over it.

    Um, no. Deal with it.

    M. Scott Eiland (56ea55)

  20. Be kind. MS can also cause mental and personality problems.

    In that case, PhRMA needs to get a more sympathetic spokesperson. Anyhow, it seems that Williams has always been a jerk.

    There is a tendency for some to idolize those with diseases and to consider them as victims that can do no wrong. The late Cathy Seipp once said: “I just want to let everyone know having cancer hasn’t made me a better person.”

    Williams should spend some time thinking about that.

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  21. As you did in #17, spqr. Insinuating that he committed a crime is ridiculous. Demanding that people you do not approve of lose their jobs is petty.

    d.s. wilson (ae8b35)

  22. Montel is a has-been with a little steroid psychosis probably.

    Comment by MIke K — 12/2/2007 @ 9:41 am

    For a retired physician that is a pretty irresponsible statement to make based on a newspaper account. Do you have inside information you care to share?

    “Do you think pharmaceutical companies would be discouraged from research and development if their profits were restricted?”

    It was a question she came up with after discussing the issue with her Advanced Placement English teacher.

    Williams’ conduct at the hotel was inexcusable and his apology shows he said something inappropriate.

    But in light of the “Scandal of the century” regarding the CNN plants is it not fair to ask if the intern’s question was a “plant”. After all, Williams is a spokesman for a project sponsored by the company – NOT a spokesman for the company at large.

    My opinion: he was right to dismiss her at the initial interview since her question had nothing to do what he had “permission” to speak about. But his conduct at the hotel is indefensible.

    voiceofreason (cae421)

  23. Well,
    I think Williams should have to go on a small apology tour. He’ll need to apologise to Joy Behar et al on The View, plus he’ll lose his show as well.
    He’ll need to go into rehab as well and maybe then we can forgive him.
    Oh wait I forgot, he’s ill, he can do or say what he will.
    Hollywood! My God, where is the flush handle?
    yeesh.

    paul from fl (47918a)

  24. Doc #16,

    I agree. I enjoyed his early shows. I’d rather watch Jerry Springer now. (Err no, Tavis Smiley, actually.)

    MS is treated with steroids so it’s reasonable, that in addition to the complications of the disease itself, to speculate that his personality problems my be a side-effect of the drugs themselves.

    nk (2e8319)

  25. “Do you think pharmaceutical companies would be discouraged from research and development if their profits were restricted?”

    I disagree that this “…question had nothing to do what he had “permission” to speak about…”, and the fact the she is a highschooler makes it pretty unlikely she is a “plant” too. A spokesman for a subsidized program could reasonably expect to be asked to comment on the long-term effects of such programs on drug research. I think some people assume that those doing charitable work are immunized from criticism or even scrutiny – far from it. By your actions you are endorsing some position, and ALL positions should not only be open to questions, but should welcome them as a means of demonstrating their value to society.

    And you know what, even if she HAD been a “plant”, or even if her question HAD been off-topic, last time I checked, adult celebrity spokesmen are still expected to comport themselves like adults. If this person, ill or not, cannot do that, he is letting down something he believes in.

    Now, if you will go back and read the last paragraph of the actual post, I think you will find it quite reasonable and fair.

    sherlock (b4bbcc)

  26. Criminy, nk, you liked Montel Williams and you like Jerry Springer? I feel sort of like someone that I respected just told me that he likes to be urinated on during sex. I mean, even if it’s true, for heaven’s sake, keep those things to yourself. Worse than the grossness of the habit is the fact that one isn’t ashamed to admit to it in public. :)

    Doc Rampage (ebfd7a)

  27. #25
    She was mentored by her teacher. So there was assistance for this poor high school student.
    Williams is not a Public Affairs person for the company no matter how you parse it.

    It was a loaded question. Answer No and he might just lose his job.Seems like a reasonable concern to me.

    And if you took the time to read my post then you would have seen:

    My opinion: he was right to dismiss her at the initial interview since her question had nothing to do what he had “permission” to speak about. But his conduct at the hotel is indefensible.

    voiceofreason (cae421)

  28. d.s.wilson, I wrote no such thing.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  29. Wilson– I did not say he committed a crime, I said he threatened a teenage girl. Amazingly, not everything that is wrong is illegal.

    Or are you so far out of touch with reality that you’re going to deny that, just as you try to set the limits of what can be spoken of in someone else’s forum?

    Foxfier (72422d)

  30. Steroids are only one type of treatment for MS, and I believe that is generally limited to exacerbations (flare-ups) to rapidly bring them under control (through their anti-inflamatory effects).

    The major treatments now are Copaxone, Avonex, Betaserone, and Tabrisi. These are injection type treatments with flu-like side-effects (woops, Tabrisi is a once a month infusion – think cancer-like chemo treatment for a visual). All the treatments are effective but extremely expensive. The research involved is complicated, expensive, and the development cycle is quite long. In answer to the young lady’s question, absent the possibility of a reasonable return on investment, it is unlikely the pharmaceutical companies would undertake the research. Certainly it would reduce the likelihood that they would. Her question has an underlying assumption, seems to me. That assumption is that earning a profit is somehow wrong. Given that the question really came from her Advanced English Instructor, that’s not surprising. But it’s a shame Montel reacted as he did.

    I have my doubts that Montel’s personality problems are a side-effect of his treatment, unless he just recently had a major course of steroids. ‘Roid rage generally follows prolonged exposure or high exposure in a short period if memory serves. That’s not how steroids are administered in MS.

    Depending on which part of the brain is involved, yes there can be personality effects. Advanced cases can display mental deficiencies similar to dementia. However, these generally don’t appear until late in the course of the disease, if at all. Patients undergoing the MS treatments would generally show a delay in any onset of this particular symptom as the treatents directly affect the deterioration necessary for this to occur. That’s a long discourse to come to this conclusion: Montel was just being Montel. Don’t blame the MS for this; and don’t use MS as an excuse for his behavior. That’s on him.

    (I’m no expert on MS. But my wife has the disease and has undergone steroid treatment for exacerbations. She currently is on one of the four treatments I listed above. I can vouch for their cost!)

    Bill M (8e7d8e)

  31. Doc #26,

    Got anything against Charlie Rose?

    nk (2e8319)

  32. #30
    Thanks for taking the time to respond. Best wishes for your wife – not easy for either of you I’m sure.

    voiceofreason (cae421)

  33. Williams is not a Public Affairs person for the company no matter how you parse it.

    Williams is paid by the drug industry to speak to the public on pharmaceuticals. How else do you parse that?

    DocRampage@26 — LOL!!!

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  34. “Do you think pharmaceutical companies would be discouraged from research and development if their profits were restricted?”

    It’s a perfectly fair question and the answer is and should be “Yes”. As things stand it costs, on average, something on the order of $1.5 billion to get a new drug though FDA approval. Cut back the cash available to pharma companies and you will cut back the number of drugs they put in the pipeline.

    Montel should be ashamed of himself and should apologize not for the misunderstanding but for his obnoxious behavior.

    Pablo (99243e)

  35. A pigeon has more intellegence then do all these hollyweird cleberties TIM ROBINS,CHEVY CHASE,PAMELA ADERSON JULIA ROBBERTS,MICHEAL MOORE and just a few examples of what im squawking about

    krazy kagu (b3aac5)

  36. How could this girl be a plant? Plants (in the current debate) are when a network tells you that they are going to host an impartial debate and then let one debater plant questions. Nothing like that was going on here. Maybe what you really means is that the girl might have intended to ask Williams tough questions about the program he is advocating for. But that doesn’t make her a plant; it makes her a reporter.

    It’s silly to suggest that it’s somehow unfair to to ask tough questions that might force someone to reveal ideological inconsistency. That’s not only fair, it’s one of the best things a reporter can do.

    Doc Rampage (ebfd7a)

  37. nk, if Charlie Rose is who I think he is, I have nothing against him except that his show is as dull as a bread sandwich.

    Those other shows: Williams, Springer, and Donahue are (or were) freak shows. They trade on the misfortunes of those who are cursed with some combination of bad families, ugliness, stupidity, ineptness, compulsive behavior, and often a shocking lack of compassion for their fellow unfortunates. They urge the audience to revel in the pitiful little dramas that work themselves out in the bleak lives of these people and to feel good because no matter what their life is like, at least it’s not as bad as those sad sacks.

    These people should be the objects of private pity, not public spectacle.

    Doc Rampage (ebfd7a)

  38. I don’t think anyone is questioning whether the girl has the right to ask tough questions or is questioning whether or not Montel is a jerk (especially in this situation).

    I think there may be another way at looking at this situation. You have a celebrity who is involved with a cause both professionally and personally (emotionally). Bradley, the article states no compensation relationship, so it may not be a safe assumption, especially due to his own disease. He assumes the content of the interview will be a fluff piece. The interview turns out to be a bit more ideologically driven. Montel cuts it off like a pro in the first round (maybe). Then he runs into the same person later and has a complete freak out.

    Take Montel to task for the freak out, but don’t carry so much water for the girl with a BS question. What were the other questions she didn’t get to ask?

    Also that question is pure ideological drivel. Any person who understands business (a hell of a lot people) know that when profits are cut it reduces the options and flexibility of the organization. The AP English teacher and her sponsers at the paper should have given her better guidelines. They put her in a precarious situation and used her age and newness as cover.

    She has potential and guts for making the right request with the apology, but I hope she finds better mentors in her career.

    pwr (cf023a)

  39. I thought long and hard about this before posting and I specifically thought about whether this was a fair question. Ultimately, I decided it was fair because Montel Williams is a paid spokesman and not someone who has donated his time. It’s a close call – I’m sure Willliams’ involvement with this organization is primarily motivated by a sincere desire to help other sick people get needed prescription medications. But he is paid to represent this organization and that includes answering questions from the press.

    In addition, the question wasn’t off-the-wall, no matter who helped craft it. It doesn’t help sick people to give them medicines now, only to hamstring the development of better medicines in the future because pharmaceutical companies can’t afford R&D.

    Thus, was it fair to ask Williams the question? Reasonable people can disagree but the bottom line to me is that he was the person the organization offered for an interview. So my answer is “Yes, it was fair.”

    DRJ (a6fcd2)

  40. Bill M.#30
    Good post on MS.At least I think so.For exacerbations of MS,I generally use 60 mg/day as a start.This is a poison ivydose-so nothing special.And if you think bete seron is costly,check out IVIG.
    But they work

    corwin (6d644c)

  41. DRJ hits a point, and I’ll add another: Williams own words, “I’m here as a patient advocate,” says to me that the question is not only fair, but necessary to the discussion. A patient advocate says to me his interests should include whether or not profits will affect availability of the drugs.

    reff (99666d)

  42. If this were Montel’s child he would have a law suite so fast it would make your head swim. If he were not a star he would be put in jail for a threat. We are at war threats like this don’t get it. For God’s sake this was a child he threatened. Get a life people don’t blame this on his medication or his health. Maybe if his health is that bad and the medicine does this ei him RETIRE. This will always be in the back of her mind,she may never want to do this kind of thing again. And if it was something she wanted to get into after high school,he might have cost her a dream. Stop feeling sorry for poor Montel what he did was WRONG. And going on his show will just make the ratings go up along with his wallet. I hope her parents help her see the light,and they get an attorney and sue the pants off of Montel.

    Tammy (c36902)

  43. Big deal. Montel yelled at a kid. If the kid was a grownup, there wouldn’t be such a hoopla over this. I have MS. There are lesions in my brain that attack every part of your body and your emotions and behavior are affected as well.
    I, as Montel does, suffer daily with unrelenting fatigue, pain and cognitive dysfunction. I’m one of the lucky ones as I can still walk. It ruined my career, I can no longer work. There are times I blow up too as you get so frustrated, it just happens. Hey we’re all human. Just because Montel is a celebrity, it becomes a major news story. I met Montel, walked with him on his last walk and he is a hero. To be able to bring such awareness of the disease to millions and raise the money he does for research only, he is a hero to me. He is limping and in alot of pain. Give the guy a break. If a 17 year old can ask a question like that, he should be ready for any answer and perhaps if he educated himself on the disease Montel suffers from, he would understand more. Again, we are all just human. Stop making this the biggest issue we have today. Montel is the victim here, not the kid. He doesn’t deserve this negative press. What? one slip and you’re no good. He’s been on the air for what, 20 years and has brought out stories and helped people tremendously and now he has a foundation for MS. He does good. Go back to school and forget it.

    Elyse (7217c9)

  44. Elyse — My uncle has had MS for ages.

    He has never blown up, walked off, and later given anything CLOSE to a death threat. To 17 year old girls, or anyone else.

    Barring major mental problems– as in psychosis requiring escort for the safety of the afflicted person and others— “I am sick” is not an acceptable excuse.

    Foxfier (72422d)

  45. A reasonable person could say “I really don’t care to comment on that, I’m here as a patient advocate.”

    It probably seemed like a softball question to her. It gives Williams a chance to agree that profits have to exist to fund R&D, and point out that the Partnership for Prescription Assistance exists to “help qualifying patients who lack prescription coverage get the medicines they need through the public or private program that’s right for them” (https://www.pparx.org/Intro.php).

    They aren’t demanding a cut in profits, they’re helping poor people find assistance programs.

    Maybe there’s a subtext going on I’m not aware of.

    Sam (c71bb1)


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