CBS Scooped, So They Look at Palin's 'Body Language'

What do you do when a rival network scoops you in getting the first sit-down interview with a relatively unknown vice-presidential candidate? Why, you get someone to analyze said veep candidate's body language, that's what! That's just what CBS did on its "Early Show" yesterday, and the network's website reports on the segment with the tantalizing headline "Expert: Palin Didn't Look Confident."

Almost two weeks after John McCain announced she was his choice for a running mate, portions of Sarah Palin's first network television interview aired Thursday night.

How did she do in her talk with ABC News anchor Charles Gibson? 

On The Early Show Friday, body language expert Jo-Ellan Dimitrius said Palin rated about a five on a scale of ten during the interview. As Dimitirius put it, "There were some aspects that could have been better and some that could have been worse."

Dimitrius, who with Wendy Patrick Mazzarella co-wrote the new book, "Reading People: How to Understand People and Predict Their Behavior -- Anytime, Anyplace," told co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez Palin was slouching a bit in the chair. "She's not erect. Most people look at body posture as being a sign of credibility, or professionalism. The way she's hunched over, it also shows a bit of insecurity and a lack of confidence."

Palin didn't come off as being as confident sitting there as she seemed during her speech to the Republican convention, Dimitrius added.

Also, accoridng to Dimitrius, Palin isn't a good listener -- she hurried the conversation.

And she had clenched hands at many points. That, says Dimitrius, is a fighting, defensive stance, also revealing a lack of confidence. It's one of insecurity. She was being protective.

What's more, at times, when Plain was saying "no," she was shaking her head "yes." That, says Dimitirus, indicates she wanted Gibson's approval.

Improvements Dimitrius suggests for Palin include correcting her posture, gesturing more freely and with her hands open, being careful about the verbal messages she is sending, and being a better listener.

So, even though Ms. Rodriguez rates Palin a "five" out of a possible "ten" and says that there were things she did "that could have been worse," the article focuses exclusively on what Palin did badly.

I wonder what Ms. Rodriguez would say about Charlie Gibson's body language. Many folks who saw the interview had plenty to say and ... "analyze" regarding Gibson's mannerisms during the interview. For example,

Last night, my husband, a Fulbright Scholar years ago, noted that Gibson’s style was that of a scholarship interviewer. (My husband is still on the fence and no fan of Palin, by the way.) Also, we are both lawyers, and I’m something of a litigator. And I thought of an oral argument before a court, where you’re trying to make your point while the judge/panel interrupts to blast questions at you. 

At any rate, while the style may be fully appropriate in a scholarship interview or the courtroom, we found it a bit off-putting to see it in this interview. Getting your answers is one thing, playing school principal with the interviewee is quite another. 


His glasses accentuated the sense that he was looking down his nose at her. I felt like he was treating her as though she were fresh out of community college, but interviewing to be president of Harvard. And he was humoring her by interviewing her — but hoping to show her, by his questions, that she had no business even applying for the job. 

(h/t to NB reader Martin L.)

2008 Presidential Early Show Journalistic Issues Sarah Palin