Wow! What a winter! Even though we’re combining two months after the holidays, we had more submissions than ever before. Our top honor goes to Donald Trump for “refusing to call” Megyn Kelly a “bimbo.” You can’t make this stuff up. Additional blunders come from a group so right-wing the Ku Klux Klan denounces them, a columnist from The Des Moines Register and Dr. Ben Carson with a blunder speaking about hummus. We have a whole section again of the best BIMBOs from the presidential campaigns. We saw powerful bad words from the European coal industry and the winner of the Wrong Thing to Say goes to Maine’s governor. This edition of the Memo also demonstrates examples of topics that we frequently grapple with, such as whether to respond to sensational allegations and potential fallout during company crises interviews.
We know we all need to polish our interview skills. Even students should treat interviews professionally. The attached article is the result. We’re sharing it with you for several reasons: we hope you’ll share it with friends whose children might benefit from our individualized sessions, and perhaps with your own HR departments.
THE WINNING BIMBO
“I refuse to call Megyn Kelly a bimbo, because that would not be politically correct. Instead I will only call her a lightweight reporter!” tweeted Donald Trump as he ducked the final debate before the Iowa caucuses. (We are utterly at a loss to opine what Trump should have said because we’re as confused as everyone about his sustained popularity. We’ll only point out that he did, in fact, call Megyn Kelly a “bimbo,” by refusing to call her one.)
@realDonaldTrump, Jan. 27, 2016
“I’ve got nothing to hide,” was actor Sean Penn’s response to criticism of his interview with Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in Rolling Stone Magazine. (The problem with this is that it wasn’t an interview; it was an infomercial for Guzman. Questions were submitted in advance, and Penn let Guzman review the article before publication. He may not have anything to hide but there’s a lot of be ashamed of. Note the quote became the headline.)
Chicago Tribune, “Sean Penn says he has nothing to hide from ‘El Chapo’ interview,” Jan. 11, 2016
“He doesn’t have a drinking problem that any of us know about,” said NBC Entertainment Chair Bob Greenblatt about the network’s late-night star Jimmy Fallon in response to rumors that Fallon was partying too hard. (“That any of us know about” is not reassuring. To make it worse, he added, “He goes out and has fun, and he’s had some accidents.” These are classic BIMBOs in the form of responses to a reporter’s question. Assuming Greenblatt is telling the truth about what he knows, he should have said, “On the contrary, Jimmy is a true professional and totally committed to making “The Tonight Show” the best, carrying on a noble tradition.” Note, as so often happens, the quote ended up as the headline.)
Entertainment Weekly, “NBC Says Jimmy Fallon ‘Doesn’t have a Drinking Problem,’” Jan. 13, 2016
“It’s not like we’re racist, homophobic bigots,” said David Wright of the Bureau on American Islamic Relations, a group that rallied with weapons outside a mosque in Irving, Texas. (The Bureau is so radical that the Ku Klux Klan, which also held a rally on the same day, wants nothing to do with them and made a public statement about it. Wright has posted names and addresses of local Muslims online. The Klan members said they were rallying to oppose Syrian refugees coming to Irving. Proving that publicity works, more than 150 local residents staged a counter-rally supporting the Mosque.)
The Dallas Morning News, “Klan, others leap into fray,” Dec. 3, 2015
“Some call me a militant atheist. Others call me a dick. I am neither,” wrote Salon columnist and author David Silverman in his book, “Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World.” (We can understand why people would call him a militant atheist given a book title like that and a protestation that “I’m the atheist guy.” Note his description of religion as “incorrect, malevolent, ruins lives, splits families and justifies hatred and bigotry.” The only good thing about Silverman’s column? It’s so long and over-the-top that no one reads more than halfway through the first paragraph. Note that the sensational quote became the headline.)
“Brad was reckless and he will pay the consequences but he is not a monster,” said Brad Boley’s brother regarding his conviction of animal cruelty for cooking his Chihuahua puppy on a stove. The 10- week-old puppy had to be euthanized. (We have to disagree with Boley’s brother. Brad is a monster. To make the story worse, Brad claimed he didn’t hear the puppy howling, but neighbors did and came to investigate. So he’s a deaf monster.)
The Dallas Morning News, “Brother: Dog owner reckless, not a monster,” Dec. 8, 2015
“I am not a villain,” said singer Don McLean after being arrested and charged with domestic violence. (He also said, “I ask God to give us the strength to find new happiness and I hope people will realize this will all be resolved but I hope I will not be judged in this frantic media environment.” Don’t be silly. Of course he will. Some of us might listen to “American Pie” with new ears now. As is becoming numbingly predictable, the bad quote was the headline.)
CNN, “‘American Pie’ singer on domestic violence arrest: ‘I am not a villain.’” Jan. 21, 2016
“No I have not converted to a racist bigot,” posted a Bernie Sanders supporter on Facebook explaining why he had two seats for a Donald Trump rally—he was not going to use them in hopes that the TV cameras would take pictures of the empty seats.
The Hill, “Sanders fans plot sabotage of Trump event,” Jan. 7, 2016
“Leslie Knope is not a fascist,” wrote Salon columnist Elias Isquith. (This spat shows how language bounces around. Federalist editor Dave Harsanyi criticized the TV show “Parks and Recreation” and wrote that Amy Poehler’s character had fascistic tendencies because she is a busy body, nanny state elitist who wants to impose her views on everyone through governmental power. Isquith took issue with Harsanyi’s characterization and used the opportunity to heap scorn on people who misuse the word fascist. He actually had a good point at the end: expansion of the word risks blinding people to the real thing.)
“We are not natural-born enemies of Iran,” said Saudi U.N. Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi. Well, this is good news! But they sure could have fooled us. (The comment came after Saudi Arabia cut all ties with Iran after Iran executed a prominent Shi’ite cleric. We’re so far out of our league in knowing what to say in these grotesquely complicated debates. Maybe start with taking some of the medieval restrictions off women in your own country and see if they can help the government reach out to women in Iran? Again, note the headline.)
Reuters, “‘We are not natural-born enemies of Iran,’ Saudi U.N. envoy says,” Jan. 5, 2016
“We cannot call liquor an intoxicant,” ruled India’s Punjab province health minister. (Excuse me? This is an Alice in Wonderland example of calling things what you want with no regard to reality. The comment was made in the context of opening up treatment centers for addiction while simultaneously licensing liquor vendors who plie the street. Local press noticed the disconnect. It appears that BIMBO comments are global!)
The Spirits Business, “Health Minister Says Alcohol ‘Not Intoxicant,’” Dec. 22, 2015
“I was not trampled,” insisted Des Moines Register columnist Randy Peterson who suffered a broken leg after fans from Iowa State flooded the court after the school beat hated rival Iowa. (Peterson was extremely gracious and even said he understood that students wanted to celebrate. We don’t think we would have been that kind. Note the line made the headline.)
The Des Moines Register, “Injured Register columnist: ‘I was not trampled,’” Dec. 11, 2015
“Liberals are not soft on, sympathetic towards or defensive about Islamic terrorism,” wrote Salon columnist Amanda Marcotte. (Another confused column. Marcotte equated the shooting in San Bernardino, carried out by people who publicly acknowledged fealty to an extreme strain of Islam, with the shooting at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood, carried out by a clearly deranged man spouting comments universally condemned by all Christian faiths.)
“Let’s show Baltimore the whole damn system is not guilty as hell,” said Gary Proctor, an attorney defending police officer William Porter, one of the six officers charged in Freddie Gray’s death. Officer Porter was in the van transporting Gray. (We’re at a loss to explain this comment. Wouldn’t “keep an open mind” have been better? Mimicking the rhetoric of the Black Lives Matter movement seems risky.)
The New York Times, “Starkly Different Accounts of Freddie Gray’s Death as Trial of Officer Begins,” Dec. 2, 2015
This could be a book, so just a few of the comments worth mentioning:
“I don’t have a height issue,” said Jeb Bush in an uncharacteristically snide personal crack about Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida. (This is unlike Bush, who by all accounts is a gracious man. He was making fun of his opponent’s boots with unusually high heels. Worse sin, the comment wasn’t funny.)
Politico, “Bush takes another dig at Rubio: ‘I don’t have a height issue,’” Jan. 3, 2016
This is already a long Memo, and Hillary Clinton has too many BIMBOs to count these past few months. See our selection:
- “I don’t have horns,” during a campaign rally in Omaha.
- “I’ve spent time there. That was Yale, not jail!” Iowa Town Hall.
- “No, I’m not nervous at all,” when asked by Today host Savannah Guthrie, “Are you getting worried about Bernie Sanders?”
- “Oh, I didn’t use her,” to CNN’s Jake Tapper after he asked, “So no regrets about using Chelsea that way?” in reference to Chelsea’s attack on Bernie Sanders.
We’re actually with Trump when he accused Democrat candidate Clinton of “constantly playing the woman card,” but not when he described Clinton taking a bathroom break at a debate as “disgusting.” We hope he doesn’t show the same attention to facts and details that his campaign ignored when they showed an ad purporting to show Mexican immigrants streaming over the U.S. border; it turned out the film clip was from Morocco. “What’s the difference?” said his special counsel Michael Cohen.
Politico, “Trump: Clinton has ruined the world,” Jan. 3, 2016
POLITICAL GAFFES AT REPUBLICAN JEWISH COALITION
When will people learn? Below see a series of misinformed, tone-deaf and inappropriate comments.
- “You’re not going to want to support me because I don’t want your money. You want to control your own politician.” No surprise, the BIMBO here was Donald Trump.
- Ben Carson mispronounced Hamas, the terrorist group, as “hummus.”
- And finally this comment from Jim Gilmore, with the reminder this was to the Republican Jewish Coalition, “Last night I was watching ‘Schindler’s List.’ Everybody here has seen ‘Schindler’s List.’” Remember our first question:who’s my audience?
New York Daily News, “Trump’s Republican Jewish Coalition event comments stoke outrage over stereotypes during awkward day for GOP hopefuls,” Dec. 4, 2015
POWER OF BAD WORDS
Describing the treatment of the coal industry as like “the slave trade” and claiming people had been “brainwashed” about global warming, Brian Ricketts, Secretary General of the European coal industry reacted to the Paris talks to reduce global emissions. (This was the wrong way to express a real issue. By limiting coal and thus development, richer nations condemn newly developing countries back to poverty. Coal has made huge strides and is plentiful and cheap. Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost. By using words like “slave trade” and “brainwashed,” Ricketts let them dominate the debate.)
Fox News, “Coal industry treated like “slave traders” by world leaders says Euracoal boss,” Dec. 15, 2015
WRONG THING TO SAY
“They come up here, they sell their heroin, then they go back home. Incidentally half the time, they impregnate a young white girl before they leave,” said Maine Gov. Paul LePage discussing the drug epidemic the state is experiencing. (Referring to drug dealers hypothetically named “D Money,” a presumed minority name, LePage tried to explain – and made things worse, saying “I meant to say ‘Maine women’ and I said ‘white women and I’m not going to apologize to the Maine women for that. Because if you go to Maine, you’ll see that we’re essentially 95 percent white.” Ouch. He also said that “My brain didn’t catch up with my mouth.” He should have quit there.)
RIGHT THING TO SAY / WRONG THING TO SAY
Sent in by a reader who was struck by how two publications reported on the death of ex-Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland from a presumed overdose. Page Six of the New York Post quoted his ex-wife asking the public not to glorify his death, and noting that although they had truly lost Weiland years ago, they were devastated. It was a truthful, moving and elegant story by Derrick Bryson Taylor. Over at The Washington Post, Justin Moyer wrote a long article filled with bitter and sensational quotes including a charge from an old interview where Weiland accused his ex-wife of only following his career for the money. The two articles side-by-side were an interesting example of journalistic choices.
Page Six, “Scott Weiland’s ex-wife: Kids lost their dad years ago,” Dec. 8, 2015
The Washington Post, “Scott Weiland’s ex-wife: STP singer was ‘a paranoid man who couldn’t remember his own lyrics,’” Dec. 8, 2015
STATISTICS VERSUS ANECDOTAL PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
Following the epic snowstorm in New York City, Mayor Bill DeBlasio accused New Yorkers of being impatient, said Mother Nature would melt the snow and quoted reams of statistics:
- 97 percent of all streets had been ploughed at least once
- 96 percent of Queens’ streets were plowed, a 26 percent increase since 8:30 p.m. Sunday
- Workers were spread across two shifts of 12 hours each with 2,300 workers per shift
- The Parks Department deployed 60 plows and 60 salt operations vehicles
- 250 emergency volunteers were digging out hydrants
How did New Yorkers react? They howled with anger and disbelief and started posting pictures of their own blocked streets and snow buried cars.
Gothamist, “De Blasio: ‘Be Real’ And ‘Let Mother Nature Help You’ Conquer This Snow,” Jan. 25, 2016
An interesting example from France: a picture of Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of the far right National Front party, sound asleep. Next to him, taking a selfie of the two of them, is dancer and Madonna ex-boyfriend Brahim Zaibat. He posted it on Facebook where his fans loved it. Le Pen’s party, now run by his daughter, lost the election the next day, and Le Pen is suing Zaibat for €50,000.
BBC, “Le Pen says ‘election defeat due to €50,000 selfie,’” Jan. 11, 2016
The most strategically successful tweet is by Denver NFL player Shiloh Keo. He wanted to reach Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips but didn’t have his cell phone. He tweeted, “Didn’t want to pick me up huh?” Phillips remembered Keo, they kept in touch. A few weeks later, as the Broncos were hit by injuries, Keo was called in to play.
USA Today, “How one Broncos player used Twitter to revive NFL dream,” Jan. 27, 2016
“Of course the press writes ‘Outbreak expands to new states’, which is not true,” said Chipotle CFO Jeff Hartung. Chipotle’s woes with food poisoning have gotten a lot of attention. Fortune and Bloomberg Businessweek did a long and searing series of articles about the company’s lack of preparation, arrogant attitude and missteps. They are useful reading for anyone advising the C-Suite on how to prepare for reputation-threatening events and why it’s important to think through problems before dealing with them. Two key takeaways: plan for the unexpected and make sure you have people around you who will tell you what you don’t want to hear.
Fortune, “Chipotle is Blaming the Government and the Media for Their E. Coli PR Nightmare,” Dec. 8, 2015
Bloomberg Business, “Inside Chipotle’s Contamination Crisis,” Dec. 22, 2015
RESPOND TO ALLEGATIONS – OR DON’T RESPOND?
“Brown’s new fairy story continues with lies about Chancellor Sharp’s involvement with Kyler Murray’s recruitment. Chancellor Sharp has never met Kyler Murray or his parents and has never been involved with his recruitment or the recruitment of any other student athlete.” This is an age-old problem for public relations: when a reporter writes a scathing article about you and some of the facts are wrong, do you rebut or ignore? The Houston Chronicle ran interesting article highlighting the quandary. Sports reporter Chip Brown of Horns Digest, the online newsletter of the Texas Longhorns wrote a brutal article about Texas A&M, one of its longtime rivals. The newsletter is behind a paywall, but the piece found its way to A&M Chancellor John Sharp who sent a long, foaming email to the Chronicle. The result was that thousands of people who didn’t see the original article were now privy to the dispute. We’ve gone both ways on this dilemma. There are times when I didn’t reply to “fairy tales,” as Chancellor Sharp called them, mainly when they were not facts that could be proved wrong. The article is an interesting read and a good opportunity to stimulate conversation about the right strategy.
Houston Chronicle Blog, “Office of A&M chancellor John Sharp offers piercing reply to Horns Digest article,” Jan. 7, 2016
Airbnb had to tell the builders of an igloo (in Brooklyn of all places) that they couldn’t list it and rent it on the website because it didn’t meet their standards. The Airbnb rep handled the situation with humor and sent the builders a $50 coupon for their own next Airbnb stay, saying they were “an appreciator of fine igloos around the world,” but that they should “Be sure to pick a place with running water, electricity and a roof that doesn’t melt.”
NBC News, “Brooklyn ‘Igloo’ Gets Iced by Airbnb’s Rental Rules,” Jan. 25, 2016
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