Search This Blog

Friday, 17 March 2017

‘BBC dad’ on going viral: ‘This is now the first line in my obituary’

Strangers ask him if he was wearing pants. His phone hasn’t stopped ringing. And, no, he was not abusing his daughter in trying to get her out of camera range during a live television interview.

Robert E. Kelly, the so-called “BBC dad” whose young children wandered into the room while he was doing a Skype interview on South Korean politics, met with reporters along with his family on Wednesday to discuss their newfound fame and the “very public family blooper” that has made them a viral sensation.

“This is now the first line in my obituary,” Dr. Kelly said during a news conference at Pusan National University in South Korea, where he is a professor of political science.

With his 8-month-old son, James, squirming in the arms of his wife, Kim Jeong-ah, Dr. Kelly told the room full of reporters that when the BBC interview ended, he thought he would never be invited on television again. Little did he know.

“We thought it was a disaster,” he said of the interview during which his 4-year-old daughter, Marion, marched into the room, followed by James in a squeaky walker, before his wife burst in and hurriedly shepherded the children away. “We thought no TV network would ever call us again.”

The video has been mined by pundits for wider social significance, lampooned by comedians and doctored by GIF-makers. But Dr. Kelly warned against attaching deeper meaning to an embarrassing work-life mishap, noting that while doing TV interviews from home he tries to present a professional backdrop, despite the occasional chaos of his home life.

“My real life punched through the fake cover I had created on television,” he said. “This is the kind of thing a lot of working parents can relate to.”

He also batted away some of the darker interpretations of his behavior, saying he was not manhandling his daughter by pushing her away during the interview.

“I was not shoving Marion out of the way,” he said. “I was trying to slide Marion behind the chair because we have toys and books in the room” that he hoped would distract her.

Dr. Kelly said he and his wife were bemused by the assumption — and the subsequent backlash against it — that Ms. Kim was a nanny working for the family. He said that they were offended, but not as much as some commentators on social media.

“Neither one of us are interested in politicizing this or having this provoke a backlash,” Dr. Kelly said in a telephone interview from his home after the news conference.


Dr. Kelly, who is from the United States, met Ms. Kim, a yoga teacher, at a shopping mall in Seoul shortly after he moved to South Korea in 2008. He and his wife rarely talk about race, he said, but they wonder whether their mixed-race children will face prejudice growing up in Asia.

“So far we haven’t gotten any flak,” he said, noting that his daughter, who is bilingual, is doing well in a Korean kindergarten.

He said that the couple occasionally wonder whether their children will get bullied, but, he said, “We’re not really keen on this becoming the subject of some aspiring sociologist’s dissertation.”

Dr. Kelly has been a contributing guest on the BBC for many years, regularly discussing the tumultuous politics of the Korean Peninsula from the now-famous room.

His internet fame comes as he has been in demand with the recent deluge of news about the two Koreas, including the removal of Park Geun-hye as South Korea’s president and North Korea’s missile tests.

The United States secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson, is heading to South Korea on Friday, and Dr. Kelly said he hoped the United States would reassure its allies that it would help them defend against Chinese “bullying.”

He expressed some concern about all the attention his family had received, saying, “We have been buried in phone calls.” And he denied any intention of cashing in on his newfound fame, saying that “it would be unseemly to monetize” something involving his children.

Contrary to speculation on the internet, Dr. Kelly said, he and Ms. Kim did not fight after the interview ended. And he shot down a widely circulated theory for why he had not gotten up from his chair.

“I was wearing pants,” he said.

(Source: NYT)

No comments:

Post a Comment