CDC’s Walensky puts media training to the test

By Richard Lee

Last week, CNN reported that Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has been receiving media training from Mandy Grunwald, a political consultant and media advisor.

Outside of the political and media worlds, Grunwald is not a household name. But in 1992 she was instrumental in a strategic decision that altered the dynamics between politicians and the press.

While working on Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign, she came up with the idea of putting Clinton on a late night talk show and having him play saxophone with the house band.

It was an unorthodox move at the time, but such appearances by candidates and government officials are commonplace in today’s media environment. Appearing on entertainment television programs provides several benefits for politician:

– They get to reach people who tend not to follow government and politics closely;

– They get to be personable and display their human side, and

– They get to avoid the scrutiny of journalists who cover government and politics on a regular basis.

On the flipside, the use of entertainment television has not been a positive development for public policy. Substance too often takes a back seat to appearance; candidates who make for good talk show guests aren’t always the best people to govern.

Walensky put her media training into practice last week when as Stephen Colbert’s first guest of 2022. How did she do? Watch the clip below and decide.

Richard Lee, executive director of the Jandoli Institute, covered politics and government as a reporter and later served as Deputy Director of Communication for two New Jersey governors.

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