An Englishman Walks Into A Presidential Press Conference…
This is an interesting story told by the BBC’s John Simpson. He tells us about getting re-assigned to work from Montevideo Uruguay during the Falkland war between England and Argentina way back when.
Mr. Simpson essentially barged his way into a presidential press conference by the then military dictator General Alvarez.
I don’t know that I see the correlation between General Alvarez’s snafu on live TV and his getting demoted, but what do I know.
I recognised him at once: a weasel-faced character with a pencil moustache and medals all over his chest. Immediately, I barked out a question to him, about relations with the two warring countries, Britain and Argentina. I asked it in English. Everyone in Uruguay speaks English. It’s an educated country.
But President General Alvarez did not speak English. He looked helplessly from side to side for one of his officials. No one came for well over a minute — on live television. A minute may not sound a particularly long time, but on live television there is little measurable difference between a minute of embarrassed silence and eternity. Finally, a superbly suited lackey hurried out, whispered to the President, and told us, and the entire country, which was watching, something to the effect that the President had nothing to say.
Now Uruguayans don’t like their presidents to seem uneducated or dopey, especially to foreigners. General Alvarez’s televised problem caused a sensation. His support, even among the military, began dropping away at once. The following year his National Security Council dumped him.
What O’car had tried to tell me was that the press conference was only for local journalists, and there would be no English translators available.
But you see what I mean about the British getting involved in everyone else’s affairs.