Singer, actor, activist and now author Harry Belafonte was scheduled to do a live interview with Eyewitness News in Bakersfield, California. Belafonte, who is now 84-years-old, was supposed to talk about his new memoir My Song but when the anchors were ready to interview him through a live stream in New York Belafonte appeared to be in a deep sleep.
Anchor Leyla Santiago tried to summon Belafonte’s attention but he remained unresponsive. The crew proceeded to crack jokes about how it was early and that Belafonte is tired from promoting his book in earlier interviews that day.
However Kristin Clifford, a publicist and producer for Planned Television Arts, insists that Belafonte wasn’t napping but simply waiting for his cue and that the audio had cut out on his end of the feed.
“We were doing a series of interviews, we were scheduled to speak with KBAK, we had done an audio check, everything was smooth, Mr. Belafonte was waiting for the interview to go live, they had his picture up, and the audio on their end dropped out,” she explained.
Cristi Jessee, news director at KBAK and KBFX, has admitted that there were technical difficulties.
“There was definitely an audio problem, which I think is pretty clear in the video,” she said. “Whether or not he’s really asleep, I can’t really determine.”
Some viewers have suggested that Belafonte was being diminished and disrespected by the Eyewitness News crew, considering his stature as a civil rights icon. Did their teasing go too far?