Bimbo Banter


BIMBO Nominees for December 2017


  • Bimbo
  • December 1, 2017
  • by Spaeth Communications

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Lots of BIMBOs and examples of “wrong thing to say,” but click through to good examples (for a change) and some interesting ones to learn from. Start off with BIMBOs from a lawyer commenting on universities hiding endowment funds overseas and President Trump (good example of technique and humor!). Wrong things to say from LaVar Ball (parent of star basketball players), ESPN anchor Scott Van Pelt, lawyer David Boies (a big loser in the Weinstein scandal), Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and founders of clothing company LuLaRoe. Speaking of Weinstein, lots of examples ranging from comedian Louis C.K. and actor Jeffrey Tambor to Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn. and Ryan Seacrest. Examples of the staying power of “bad words” from Apple CEO Tim Cook from years ago and Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary. Good examples from Mother Jones magazine, Uber’s new CEO, Dole’s division general counsel (stupid lawyer comments later) and Interpublic Group. At the end, a few examples worth a glance.

THE WINNING BIMBO

“I have never provided alcohol to minors, and I have never engaged in sexual misconduct,” said Judge Roy Moore, Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama. (By now, everyone knows about this situation and has heard the Judge’s denials. It’s another example of how hard it is to refute sensational charges because the power of “bad” and volatile words is all people are talking about. Moore made the story worse when he was asked if he had ever dated a teenager when he was in his 30s and he replied, “It would’ve been out of …my customary behavior.” The reply reeks of dissembling. What should he have said? Given his electoral position, he should have announced that he is running to protect the seat and that, if elected, he will resign so the governor can make a new appointment. Josh Holmes, Sen. Mitch McConnell’s former political advisor, described Steve Bannon, who engineered Moore’s victory over Sen. Luther Strange, as “an idiot” and described politics saying, “This is not a game.” Note the quote became the headline.)

The Wall Street Journal, “Republican Feud Flares Up Over Roy Moore Sex Allegations,” Nov. 10, 2017

THE RUNNERS-UP

“This was not a criminal act,” said Donna Brazile, former interim chairwoman of the Democratic Party, regarding the DNC’s coordination with the Clinton campaign from early 2016, giving the campaign effective control over fundraising and strategy. (Brazile’s sensational charges were made in a just-published book. She went on to say that it “compromised the party’s integrity.” She should have stuck to the second phrase. The revelation contradicted the frequent and vehement denials by Debbie Wasserman Schultz that the party had its thumb on the scales in favor of Clinton. The story included a BIMBO comment from Clinton campaign COO Charlie Baker who unhelpfully added, “We never tried to be presumptuous.”)

The Washington Post, “Democrats express outrage over allegations of early party control for Clinton in 2016,” Nov. 2, 2017

“I don’t grope people anymore. I don’t expose myself anymore,” said comedian Andy Dick. (Could the flood of revelations following Harvey Weinstein’s fall from power get any stranger? Dick’s response is the worst – and that’s saying a lot. He made it worse by adding, “I overtook my medication and took too many Xanax and I was a bit loopy. That didn’t make me rape people.” And he couldn’t stop. He continued, “I don’t know the difference between sexual harassment and trying to get a date.” Dick has used his bad-boy persona as fodder for his act, but apparently much of it wasn’t an act.)

Salon, “Comedian Andy Dick promptly fired from film after sexual harassment claims,” Oct. 31, 2017

“They’re not cheating,” explained Loyola University Chicago law professor Samuel Brunson. He was commenting on leaked papers that revealed elite universities took advantage of a tax dodge by stashing tens of millions of endowment dollars offshore where they could escape taxes on potentially high-risk investments. (Classic BIMBO comment. It may not be “cheating,” but it’s certainly gaming the system.)

The New York Times, “Endowments Boom as Colleges Bury Earnings Overseas,” Nov. 8, 2017

“Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me ‘old,’ when I would NEVER call him ‘short and fat?’” tweeted President Trump – teaching everyone what the word “apophatic” means.  We like our nomenclature; it’s a BIMBO comment.  (Apophatic definition: “Rhetoric. denial of one's intention to speak of a subject that is at the same time named or insinuated, as ‘I shall not mention Caesar’s avarice…’” This tweet was very creative and President Trump gets a thumbs-up.) 

The Wall Street Journal, "American Intelligence Horror Story" Nov. 14, 2017

WRONG THING TO SAY

“Ain’t that big a deal,” said LaVar Ball, father of UCLA basketball player LiAngelo Ball and Lakers star Lonzo Ball. LiAngelo was arrested for shoplifting luxury goods with some of his teammates while playing an overseas game in China. (The Ball men truly are disconnected from reality, but a lot has been written about that already. In this case, maybe he should remember what happened to Otto Warmbier in North Korea. After President Trump personally intervened to secure the release of LiAngelo and two of his teammates, Ball Senior dissed the presidential help. Now we wait to see what UCLA will do.)

USA Today, “LaVar Ball gets reality check with son’s arrest in China,” Nov. 8, 2017

“And if you did that (give up cable because of anger over NFL politics), then you’re so dumb that I can’t even pray for you because you’re beyond hope,” said ESPN anchor Scott Van Pelt. (This was a discussion with Sports Illustrated’s Jimmy Traina who asked whether ESPN was “a sinking ship.” This is a great training example because Traina framed the question by quoting others criticizing ESPN.  Van Pelt not only repeated all the charges, including the phrase “sinking ship,” but also made it worse by adding, “I guess people believe that we’re hemorrhaging money.” Notice that the obnoxious quote became the headline. Van Pelt failed in his attempt to convince listeners that ESPN is healthy and has a strategic plan to dominate the industry by offering the best programming. The positive message was buried completely.)

Blunt Force Truth, “ESPN To Boycotters, Cord-Cutters: You’re So Dumb I Can’t Even Pray For You,” Nov. 18, 2017

Another casualty of the Harvey Weinstein debacle is famed lawyer David Boies. It turns out that Boies’s law firm hired a private investigation firm to dig up dirt on Weinstein’s accusers in an attempt to prevent reporters from the New York Times from publishing a negative article about Weinstein. The problem? Boies’s firm had provided outside legal counsel for the Times in the past (the rules of conduct governing lawyers prohibit lawyers from representing clients where the two sides are in conflict). Boies claimed he had just believed he was hired to deal with a “billing dispute” with the intelligence firm and later said he was never disciplined for his work. This sounds way too much like a lawyer nitpicking.

The New York Times, “Weinstein Work Pulls Lawyer Back Into an Ethical Debate,” Nov. 7, 2017

“I guess I should take that as a compliment that I look like a villain in a great, successful ‘James Bond’ movie,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on being photographed with his glamorous wife holding a sheet of currency with his signature. (No, it’s not a compliment. Mnuchin and his wife are no strangers to the BIMBO Memo (see their comments in the October 2017 and September 2017 BIMBO Memos). The photograph, which went viral, was distinctly creepy. Note that the quote became the headline.)

The Hill, “Mnuchin: Comparisons to James Bond villain a compliment,” Nov. 19, 2017

“Uneducated,” was how founders of LuLaRoe, Deanne and Mark Stidham, described the opinions of those accusing them of running a “pyramid scheme.” (Another good teaching example, as multi-level marketing companies are frequently attacked. The CBS reporter repeated the quotes from critics and the Stidhams replied, “This is not a pyramid scheme,” which is a classic BIMBO comment. In addition to calling their critics’ opinions “uneducated,” the Stidhams accused their competitors of jealousy. They should have used the opportunity to describe the range and quality of their products and to tell a few stories of customers who had been successful building their own businesses. Remember, the stories must be true.)

BuzzFeed News, “The Founders of LuLaRoe Say People Accusing Them Of Running A Pyramid Scheme Have An ‘Uneducated Opinion,’” Nov. 8, 2017

MORE EXAMPLES

The flood of men caught up in the tsunami started by the Harvey Weinstein revelations produced a variety of reactions. Two are worth examining. First, comedian Louis C.K. issued a statement with the crucial phrase, “These stories are true.” His statement was, to us, the best of the bunch. In it, he didn’t try to dissemble or make excuses and the writing was superb. He drew criticism for not apologizing, but we thought his admission and his commitment to behave differently in the future was the best start we’ve seen so far. Contrast this with Sen. Al Franken’s dramatic apology after he was accused by newscaster Leeann Tweeden of groping her breasts while she slept on the return flight home from a U.S.O. tour. Shortly thereafter, Lindsay Menz identified herself and said Franken had groped her at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010 when he was a sitting senator. She told her husband and others about it when it happened. Two other women have come forward, but Franken disputed their allegations saying, “I can categorically say that I did not proposition anyone to join me in any bathroom.” Franken would do well to follow Louis C.K.’s strategy. Own up to the truth.

The New York Times, “Louis C.K. Responds to Accusations: ‘These Stories Are True,’” Nov. 10, 2017

POWER OF BAD WORDS

“We don’t depend on tax gimmicks,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook at a congressional hearing in 2013. It was a sensational quote at the time and became the cut line on the AP photo that appeared in many publications. The word is back this month, from papers revealing the company’s use of “ghost companies” to shift of tens of billions of dollars around the world to tax havens. (The new research found that although Apple said in 2013 they “don’t stash money on some Caribbean island,” they did rely on an island in the English Channel. Cook noted, “We pay all the taxes we owe, every single dollar,” and we don’t doubt this…)

The New York Times, “After a Tax Crackdown, Apple Found a New Shelter for Its Profits,” Nov. 6, 2017

Show this story to your CEO as an example of how “bad words” dominate communication. Michael O’Leary, CEO of low-cost airline Ryanair, messed up the fall vacation schedule for pilots. To mitigate the disaster, the airline wanted to cut a week of vacation from the pilots. O’Leary threatened the pilots, saying that if they “misbehaved” by not cooperating, they wouldn’t get any “goodies.” O’Leary has a history of spouting off. He told the pilots they had an “easy job” though pilots are among the most highly-trained professions in the world, and suggested charging a higher fare for “fat people.” Ryanair is vehemently anti-union due to its low-cost model, but the article chronicles how angering and threatening employees is stimulating the union’s organizing campaign. O’Leary read up on and modeled Southwest Airlines’ business model, but apparently didn’t read about Herb Kelleher’s culture that instilled teamwork among employees and made Southwest a great place to work.

The New York Times, “Jet Pilot Might Not Seem Like a ‘Gig,’ but at Ryanair, It Is,” Nov. 16, 2017

Actor Jeffrey Tambor has also been accused by a co-star of sexual harassment. He said he has “flaws,” but that he is not a “predator,” and he apologized if his actions were “misinterpreted” or considered “sexually aggressive.” Twice he repeated, “I am not a predator” and said, “I can be volatile and ill-tempered.” This is an example of a very unclear strategy. Tambor’s co-star went public with her accusation, which followed another accusation from a former staff member to which he responded with a denial and referred to his accuser as a “disgruntled assistant.” That’s always a mistake. Again, come clean, admit the actions and commit to change in the future.)

BuzzFeed News, “Jeffrey Tambor Responds To Sexual Harassment Allegations Made By ‘Transparent’ Costar Trace Lysette,” Nov. 17, 2017

GOOD EXAMPLES AND EXAMPLES WITH LESSONS

Uber, which has had a lot of bad publicity, has a new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi. He introduced a new goal, “We do the right thing. Period.” and new culture values at an all-employee meeting. We applaud his understanding of how words anchor culture. Now he should set up a system to collect stories and quotes that illustrate the behavior Uber wants to encourage. Note that the slogan made the headline.

The New York Times, “Uber’s New Mantra: ‘We Do the Right Thing. Period.’” Nov. 7, 2017    

David Corn, the D.C. bureau chief for Mother Jones magazine, made news when it was revealed that staffers had complained about “uninvited touching” several years ago. Was Corn going to be the next Michael Oreskes (NPR’s news head who resigned after sexual harassment accusations)? Mother Jones gets a thumbs-up for handling the situation appropriately, which is to say in a timely and rational fashion, and for not panicking and overreacting. The leadership (both women) CEO Monika Bauerlein and editor-in-chief Clara Jeffery advised the magazine’s staff, “What we heard about in the past were concerns about nonsexual touching (patting on the shoulder, slapping on the back, poking in the arm). At no time did anyone claim that any kind of sexual touching occurred. In fact, the people who raised concerns about touching told us that they did not consider it sexual, but simply didn’t want any physical contact at all.” We were particularly glad to see the progressive magazine convey the difference between friendly physical contact and unwanted sexual advances.

Politico, “David Corn investigated for inappropriate workplace behavior,” Nov. 2, 2017

Big shout out to Dole– and their lawyers, of all people – for not overreacting to a meme-maker who photoshopped mini packs of Dole salad to poke fun prior to Halloween. While they sent a “cease and desist” letter, they made it funny and turned it into a great marketing opportunity. Read the whole letter and make sure you send it to your general counsel. We particularly liked the line, “Normally, we would insist that you take your images down or else I and our more formal and scary hired-gun lawyers would come and take all your candy away.” Instead, Division GC Richard Jacobs just asked, “please contact us in advance if you wish to use any of our trademarks in the future.” Brilliant!)

Lost At E Minor, “Dole sends ‘friendly’ cease and desist letter to Halloween meme-maker,” Nov. 1, 2017

Companies are watching the fallout from the Harvey Weinstein debacle and trying to get ahead of the curve with internal communication and training. We’re glad to see some companies are clearly serious and are publicly confirming their dedication. A shout out to Interpublic Group for doing this. CEO Michael Roth also briefed his board on their commitment by saying, “Women are crucial to our business and our workforce. We need our environment to be safe for all.” Read this article and circulate it to your own C-suite. The main lesson: talk to the Board and go public with your commitment.

The Wall Street Journal, “The Workplace After Harvey Weinstein: Harassment Scandals Prompt Rapid Changes,” Nov. 10, 2017 

A crew member accused Ryan Seacrest of “behave[ing] inappropriately toward her” a decade ago. Read Seacrest’s entire statement, but in particular pay attention to this sentence: “I’m proud of my workplace reputation, and believe my track record will speak for itself. I’m an advocate for women. I will continue to support their voices.” The one thing we would have changed is his use of the word “reckless” in his assertion, “I dispute these reckless allegations.” Note that the word “reckless” dominated the story and became the quote. Missing from this story, and important to future iterations, are comments from female colleagues confirming his goal of creating “a positive work environment of mutual respect and courtesy.”

USA Today, “Ryan Seacrest disputes ‘reckless’ misconduct allegations,” Nov. 17, 2017

LAWYER COMMENTS

Filmmaker Brett Ratner’s attorney didn’t help his case after Ratner was accused of very serious sexual assault and misconduct by actress Natasha Henstridge. Her charges were very graphic. Ratner’s attorney, Martin Singer, disputed the charges saying, “I have represented Mr. Ratner for two decades, and no woman has ever made a claim against him for sexual misconduct or sexual harassment. Furthermore, no woman has ever requested or received any financial settlement from my client.” Singer clearly needs to read Louis C.K.’s short essay about why women may not have spoken out about unwelcome conduct (the difference in power between filmmaker and potential employee is relevant).  In Ratner’s case, multiple women have now come forward with stories. One of the stranger parts of this story reinforces a theme common: people knew about his behavior for decades, but remained silent. Last year, Tina Fey spoke at the Hollywood Reporter’s annual Women in Entertainment event and noted that Ratner was attending, but “he thought this was a thing where you could eat breakfast off of 100 women.” So much for honesty and forthrightness.

Los Angeles Times, “Six women accuse film maker Brett Ratner of sexual harassment or misconduct,” Nov. 1, 2017

Amazon Studios Chairman Roy Price is another high profile senior executive discharged because of serious allegations. At first reading, this is another case in which there was a long, recognized record of misconduct. As stories flooded out, Price’s lawyer, Eric George, issued a statement: “In a career spanning three decades, Roy Price has never once been accused of engaging in unwanted physical contact. Nor has he ever been accused of sexual harassment—with the sole exception of the incident alleged by Ms. Hackett, the portrayal of which he vigorously contests. Any attempt to equate Roy with other stories that have emerged recently in Hollywood is false and misleading.” This is an example of another lawyer who missed not only the Louis C.K. essay, but also the entire situation at Fox News where a culture of empowering stars and ignoring bad behavior was disregarded until a lawsuit prompted the network to hire outside counsel to investigate – and we all know the result and repercussions. Ratner hired the wrong lawyer, one who told him what he wanted to hear. (See my column published for the Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal “How to Change a Federal Agency From the Inside Out” for a relevant request of me from former FBI Director William Webster.)

The Wall Street Journal, “Roy Price’s Alleged Trail of Drinking and Sexual Harassment Challenges Amazon’s Culture,” Nov. 6, 2017

EXAMPLES WITH A LESSON

This article proved an interesting example of person-to-person communication with very significant implications. Wells Fargo executive Franklin Codel was fired after he made critical remarks about a regulator to another Wells Fargo executive, Greg Gwizdz, who had been recently fired. Gwizdz reported Codel’s comments to his former colleagues, who shared them with regulators. Wow. While the official story is that this was occasioned by the seriousness of Wells Fargo’s well-documented transgressions creating millions of fake accounts, we have a sneaking suspicion that Gwizdz could have been motivated by his own firing. An interesting article and situation to share with HR as an example of how a personal comment made in confidence can be used as a weapon.

The Wall Street Journal, “Wells Fargo Executive Fired After Complaining About Regulators,” Nov. 17, 2017

Interesting example of how times change, but court orders don’t. Tobacco companies are starting to run court-ordered advertising that alerts consumers that smoking and nicotine are highly addictive. These are part of a 1999 lawsuit. The ad buy was ordered in 2006, but appeals delayed it. However, the ads are a total waste because the they target young people who aren’t watching TV or reading newspapers.

The Wall Street Journal, “Cigarette Makers Must Advertise Their Dangers, But Will Millennials Get the Message?” Nov. 17, 2017

The article that set off the Harvey Weinstein tsunami was written by Ronan Farrow for The New Yorker, which proves one of the winners in the controversy. Losers are the New York Times who sat on the story for months and lawyer David Boies, as noted in an item above. The article is worth reading, as it unveils the resources available for deep-pocketed individuals or entities looking to influence a narrative.

The New Yorker, “Harvey Weinstein’s Army of Spies,” Nov. 6, 2017          

 

The BIMBO Memo is a reminder not to repeat and deny a negative word because of how the listener hears words. When you repeat and deny a negative word, the listener is likely to overlook the denial and hear the opposite of what the speaker is trying to say. It’s named for the young woman who was caught with a high profile, but alas married man. She held a press conference and announced, “I am not a BIMBO,” thus causing everyone to think she was.



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