I wasn’t able to watch Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah Winfrey but I’ve read enough and watched those video clips. This analysis piece in today’s NY Times, Amid Tears, Armstrong Leaves Unanswered Questions, does a good job of summing up the problems with it:
He personally chose Winfrey for his big reveal, and it went predictably. Winfrey allowed him to share his thoughts and elicited emotions from him, but she consistently failed to ask critical follow-up questions that would have addressed the most vexing aspects of Armstrong’s deception.
She did not press him on who helped him dope or cover up his drug use for more than a decade. Nor did she ask him why he chose to take banned performance-enhancing substances even after cancer had threatened his life…
At times, Winfrey’s interview seemed more like a therapy session than an inquisition, with Armstrong admitting that he was narcissistic and had been in therapy — and that he should be in therapy regularly because his life was so complicated.
I wasn’t so bothered by her lack of critical follow-up questions on who helped him. She’s not an investigative journalist like Mike Wallace. But she wasn’t a very good talk-show interviewer either, and certainly not a good therapist.
It’s clear to me that Armstrong doesn’t have much self-understanding. He’ll need that if his verbal apologies are going to mean anything. You can’t just apologize and say admit to being a ruthless bully and jerk. You have to be willing to reveal the mistaken thinking that led to your behavior.
He also needs to make amends to those he harmed (see #8 of the AA’s Twelve Steps). I first heard the phrase “You can’t talk your way out of something you’ve behaved yourself into” from a recovering alcoholic who was speaking about Step 8. It’s pretty clear to me that so far, Armstrong is hoping that admission of guilt and a little show of emotion will be enough.