Michaella McCollum, recently paroled from a Peruvian prison, faced outrage from the Irish public after an RTÉ interview that many felt was “too soft” on her. The Independent reported that “RTÉ has been blitzed with negative comments from viewers in relation to the controversial interview with drug mule Michaella McCollum.” RTÉ, or Raidió Teilifís Éireann, is the Irish national public service broadcasting service.
Michaella McCollum was half of the “Peru Two.” As the Inquisitr told readers in 2013, Michaella McCollum of Dungannon, County Tyrone, in Northern Ireland and Melissa Reid of Lenzie, East Dunbartonshire, Scotland, were arrested for smuggling over $2 million worth of cocaine into Peru. Both women pleaded guilty in hopes of obtaining a reduced sentence. Melissa Reid is still in prison. The Mirror reports that Michaella McCollum “was freed under new legislation on early prison release introduced in Peru last year. She had served two years and three months.” She was released from Ancon 2 Prison on Thursday, March 31. On Sunday, April 3, the RTÉ broadcast an interview with Michaella McCollum. The interview attracted 550,000 viewers.
The Irish Times criticized the RTÉ for what it called a “soft-focus” interview.
“RTÉ’s soft-focus interview followed the modern media template of the public confessional. Similar performances of repentance, remorse, and redemption have been enacted by so many celebrities, sportspeople, and politicians in recent years that the rituals have become boringly predictable.”
“Given the circumstances, one might have expected a few hard questions. How much were you going to be paid for the job? Did you get money in advance? Were you asked to do anything else? Did you commit any other crimes? None of these issues were raised. But we did get ‘What’s the last 48 hours been like for you?’; ‘How important for you was it to have your mother there?’; and ‘Did you know your hairstyle became news?’ “
The Irish Times did acknowledge that as the terms of Michaella McCollum’s parole prohibit her from leaving Peru yet, she may have “felt constrained in what she could say.”
Many viewers complained that the RTÉ interview was too soft on a convicted drug smuggler just because she was a young, pretty woman. Some pointed out discrepancies in her statements over the years, accusing her of lying.
Others, including Gemma Collins, accused RTÉ of glamorizing drugs. Gemma Collins is the manager of the Crinan Youth Project, which works with young people with drug problems in Dublin’s inner city. She’s concerned that the interview with Michaella McCollum will glamorize drug smuggling.
Breaking News predicted Michaella McCollum might be ready to capitalize on her fame by becoming a reality television star.
“Michaella’s future could be looking very bright with rumours of reality tv offers and book deals on the horizon. Celebrity agent Sonia Harris reckons the 23-year-old could net as much as €100,000 if she plays her cards right.”
Michaella McCollum, a former nightclub dancer and model, is no stranger to publicity. There have been two documentaries about her and her partner in crime, Melissa Reid. Michaella, Peru, and the Drugs Run, made in 2014, called her “a poster girl for everything associated with 21st century drugs culture: hedonism, money, international crime, and the complex politics of the world-wide war on drugs.” Brits Behind Bars: Cocaine Smugglers, made in 2015, showed how British tourists were groomed to become drug mules.
The RTÉ is a dual-funded public service broadcaster, paid for by both the Television License Fee and commercial revenue. Many viewers think their licensing fee money has been wasted giving publicity to Michaella McCollum.
. [Photo by Karel Navarro/AP Images]