For Ilves, Sky's gaffe is the limit (12)

(Screenshot/Youtube)
2/9/2015 1:41 PM
Category: Opinion

What would you do if you are the president of a country of 1.3 million giving an interview on a major international network and, horror of horrors, the presenter messes up your name?

Toomas Hendrik Ilves, identified by Sky News as Mr. Hendrik, shot a disbelieving eye-rolling look offstage, muttered disgustedly, and ripped out his earphones. Interview over. Contact my office to apologize and reschedule.

The incident circulated widely on social media over the weekend. Some commenters said they'd have played it smoother, saying the message was more important than the technicalities. They said Ilves should have just gone with the flow and deliver some good sound bites. When the Estonian flag was raised upside down in Barcelona in 1992, it wasn't as if gold medalist Erika Salumäe walked off the podium in protest, bringing the ceremony to a crashing halt.

On the other hand, it's important to keep in mind that Ilves isn't exactly a stranger to the big interview, whether on CNN or less rigorous outlets. And ultimately Sky News did get the name right and was granted the comments, on Russia's potential threat to the Baltics.

There's also some history here. The Estonian president isn't just some figurehead functionary. Thanks to the larger-than-life personalities who have occupied the office in the past (Lennart Meri and Ilves of course; Rüütel was a piece of work, too) the office is more like a cross between royalty and a rock star - one of those quirky, a bit erratic stars like Bob Dylan or the punk rockers and singer-songwriters that Ilves himself reveres. (No fools suffered here.) Estonians themselves revere their president. You'll see about as much political satire about the president as about the king of Thailand.

Maybe the real question is perhaps WWMD? What would Lennart Meri have done? Whipped out a marker, written a sign saying the "The Name's Meri" and held it up for the camera with that famous grin? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

K. Rikken

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