Last Friday I provided a typical interview on US Politics to BBC Radio Foyle in Northern Ireland. I had appeared earlier in the week and it was great to get a follow up spot. The issue of the week centred on the allegations of Russian hacking and possible interference in the 2016 US Presidential Election. The formal and public joint intelligence report came out on Friday and senior intelligence officials were in New York briefing President-Elect Donald Trump on their findings as well as the classified information that led to their conclusions about a Russian campaign of influence.
After doing the spot, I got an email from one of the journalists supporting BBC Breakfast inviting me to appear on the couch the next morning for the Saturday show. I accepted the invitation and made my way to Media City in Salford in Manchester ready for the next day’s live broadcast. I was instructed to arrive at Quay House no later than 08:40. I arrived at reception at 08:20 and was given a badge with my name on it and asked to wait. Soon a handler arrived and led me to makeup and then the green room, where I enjoyed a fresh cup of coffee and the Saturday edition of the FT. I had been reading the news all night about the intelligence briefing and Trump’s response in preparation for my spot on the couch.
I was picked up at 08:40 to go the studio. I thought it seemed a bit early, but I am accustomed to schedules changing at the last minute when working with the media and thought nothing of it. So, I waited outside the studio chatting with the floor manager who commented on me wearing a suit (which I thought very odd at the time) and who asked me to remove my badge, as that would not look good on live TV. I was soon seated next to Jon Kay and Rachel Burden and waited for my cue.
After Martin Lewis finished his piece on The Money Box, the autocue started rolling and began to introduce a story about Leslie Binns. I began to get more and more nervous as the story developed and I even looked sideways to see if he had entered the studio, or if there would be a cutaway to video with him on it.
The hosts turned directly to me, despite a large picture of Leslie behind me and waited expectedly for me to tell them about my next great adventure climbing Mount Everest! For a fleeting moment, I contemplated faking it, referring to the toughness of base camp. praising the hard work of the sherpas, and the struggle up the mountain; however, I played it straight, and simply said ‘I am afraid you have the wrong guest, sir.’
We all sat there for a few awkward moments, where we recovered nicely, and I was whisked away to appear a few minutes later for my actual spot about the Russians and Trump. I spoke to Leslie outside the studio and realised that he was the man waiting in the Green Room with me. He looked very much like an ex-soldier (complete with an army badge) wearing a red jumper covered in sponsor badges for his Everest climb.
This was a simple honest mistake borne of a busy schedule of guests, miscommunication, misunderstanding, and assumptions.
The story got picked up and went viral very quickly, with it being carried in The Evening Standard, The Express, The Daily Mail, The Mirror, The Independent in Ireland, The Irish Times, TV New Zealand, AOL, Yahoo, The Nottingham Post, and even in Nigeria and Ghana. As ever, the Australians added their own sense of humour by focusing on my facial expression, at precisely the time I realised that I was the wrong man. Perhaps the best coverage was in Cosmopolitan Magazine, which says ‘just to reiterate – Todd Landman is NOT a mountain-climbing life-saver. But he does look like a nice fella.’
The next day, the Sunday Telegraph ran the story on its frontages, describing me as ‘a bespectacled and greying professor’ not to be confused with a ‘rugged mountaineer’. Ouch!
In the end, these things happen, and I have received wonderful emails, tweets, Facebook shares and messages about the event. Today, BBC Nottingham ran a radio feature on the event and framed their morning show around ‘Tell us your story of mistaken identity.’
I now go down in the annals of history as the man who was mistaken for a mountaineer, and was only an academic (and some say, a mighty fine magician!), while the BBC quips ‘you will always be a hero to us.’
— BBC Newsbeat (@BBCNewsbeat) January 7, 2017