Bimbo Banter


BIMBO Nominees for May 2015


  • Bimbo
  • May 5, 2015
  • by Spaeth Communications

 

We have a great selection of BIMBOs this month along with an enormous “Wrong Thing to Say” category. Excellent teaching examples come from Robert Downey Jr., Yahoo’s CEO, the manager of the Cincinnati Reds and a top business columnist. We have additional BIMBO comments from Russian President Putin, Sen. Robert Menendez, Rolling Stone’s publisher, President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. Keep reading below for a Facebook post from a truly revolting car repair bigot in Michigan, an ESPN reporter who hasn’t figured out that security cameras are TV, Dallas DA Susan Hawk and a Chipotle spokesperson treated unfairly. Naïve of the month goes to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara because he’s supposed to be a savvy guy.

 

THE WINNING BIMBO

“The Clintons still aren’t corrupt,” read the headline of a report in The Daily Beast as excerpts from Peter Schweizer’s to-be-published book, “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,” trickled out. (The facts, and the implications that the Clintons took in millions for their foundation and President Clinton was paid an eye-popping $500,000 for a speech in Russia, triggered a furious debate. Mrs. Clinton’s supporters, such as MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki, were left struggling to find positive things to say. Guest Rick Unger described the Clinton campaign rollout as “contrived” and “a disaster,” to which Kornacki responded, “I’m not sure it’s been that disastrous. It does look contrived,” providing a nice example of how we pick up and repeat each other’s words. The Huffington Post criticized Schweizer for not briefing Democrats – although we can’t imagine why he would – and he noted that he had briefed The New York Times, the Washington Post and ABC’s investigative unit by saying, “These are not cupcakes.” There’s an interesting verbal picture.)

The Daily Beast, “The Clintons Still Aren’t Corrupt,” April 22, 2015

THE RUNNERS-UP

“We’ve never kicked any elderly people out. We don’t do anything illegal, we don’t do anything that’s not within our rights,” said real estate developer Gregory Jones about his and his brother’s strategy of buying small rundown buildings in New York City to refurbish and raise rents to target students and young professionals. (The lengthy article described the brothers’ persistence and success in the face of endless obstacles. The BIMBO quotes were a response to the criticism that they were evicting tenants from rent-stabilized and rent-controlled units. Anyone who’s lived in NYC can tell you that countless tenants deceptively represent themselves to hang on to these low priced apartments. Jones and his brother defended themselves by noting they focused on people who did not qualify for the rent stabilized markets. Jones should have said: “We’ve been scrupulous in observing people’s rights. We are performing a public service by bringing thousands of greatly improved apartments to the market. Our target tenants are students and young professionals, groups critical to the city’s future.”

The New York Times, “Buying Apartment Buildings in New York and Beyond in a Strategic Bet,” April 1, 2015

“He’s not a nut,” said Mike Shanahan, a friend and colleague of Doug Hughes, the postal worker who caught the world’s attention by flying a gyrocopter onto the grounds of the U.S. Capitol to protest campaign finance issues. (Now we all know what a gyrocopter is. The issue, as usual, is that Hughes’ pal picked the wrong quote. Shanahan actually continued, “What he wanted to do was get America’s attention. And he sure did that.” However, he began by saying, “I realize this stunt seems totally insane,” – he’s right about that. He should have said, “Doug cares deeply about good government and he feels the current campaign laws serve special interests at the expense of the little guy.”)

Politico, “Gyrocopter pilot’s friend: ‘He’s not a nut,’” April 17, 2015

I’m not saying we should be hurting people, I’m not saying we should be killing people,” said commentator Marc Lamont Hill in defense of the violence erupting in Baltimore. He added, “I’m not calling them rioters.” (This exchange illustrates everything that’s wrong with the current debate about race relations. Hill tried to wrap himself in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s misunderstood comment on riots as the language of the unheard. Fortunately, another panelist noted that voices have been heard—and loudly. Hill tried to say, “The city is not burning because of the protesters, the city is burning because the police killed Freddie Gray.”)

Breitbart, “Hill: Need to Understand ‘Resistance Looks Different Ways to Different People,’” April 27, 2015

“We have no imperial ambitions,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin during his annual Russian radio call-in show. He tried to reassure callers that Russia’s economy was not collapsing and that he cared about the plight of ordinary people. (Good try, Vlad. Last fall, Putin advanced the view that he needed to protect Russian speakers in other countries. To do so, he would seize territories in countries with significant populations of Russian speakers. This is an example of saying the right thing in a great venue. But does he mean any of it?)

The New York Times, “Putin Takes Questions: More Economy, Less Ukraine,” April 16, 2015

“I am not going anywhere…This is not how my career is going to end,” said Senator Robert Menendez, D-NJ, after being indicted by a grand jury on charges of bribery and using his office to improperly help a political donor. (The senator did say all the right things about being vindicated, but the minute a political figure says, “I’m not leaving,” it means he’s history. Consider the recent insistence by Oregon’s governor that he wasn’t resigning. We thought it was interesting that many of the actions the senator was indicted for seem to be the same thing the Clintons are doing: accepting trips, interceding on behalf of supporters. We admit to being sympathetic to the senator. In 2008, Sen. Ted Stevens, R-AK, was indicted days before a close election, which he lost. The Department of Justice later had to drop the charges and admit they hid evidence that would have supported his defense. Sen. Menendez has been anything but an administration mouthpiece. He certainly committed the perception of ethical lapses.)

The Guardian, “US Senator Bob Menendez indicted on corruption charges,” April 1, 2015

“We are not going to cut those corners even for the most sympathetic reasons,” said Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner commenting on a scathing report by the Columbia School of Journalism about Rolling Stone’s article last fall describing a gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity. (Leaving many of us to think that what they had been doing was cutting virtually all the corners journalism is supposed to pay attention to, Wenner also made the classic mistake of claiming Sabrina Erdely’s article, which had to be retracted, was “an isolated episode.” This illustrates the trap of statistics; having claimed that Jackie’s experience was a proxy for behavior on campus, the magazine now can’t claim that the fact that the story was totally fabricated and then hyped by the magazine was itself just an isolated incident. Further, Wenner said Erdely would continue to write for Rolling Stone, that she was “a really expert fabulist storyteller,” but that he wasn’t trying to blame her. No? And no acknowledgment of the turmoil the accusations caused Phi Kappa Psi. This is an instance where a blunt, truthful comment should have been in order: “The story touched a narrative with which we deeply sympathize, so we ignored a more thorough investigation of the facts; in the process, we disserved our readers and wounded the reputation of the fraternity in question and the university. We apologize.” Don’t hold your breath. Final comment: missing from this sordid chapter is any recognition on UVA’s part that they leapt to conclusions and totally violated the rights of the accused fraternity.)

The New York Times, “Rolling Stone Article on Rape at University of Virginia Failed All Basics, Report Says,” April 5, 2015

“I’m not interested in having battles that, frankly, started before I was born,” said President Obama at a summit of Western hemisphere leaders in Panama promoting the opening relations and lifting the embargo with Cuba. (Whatever one’s position on opening diplomatic relations with the communist country, his comment is distressing. We would like to remind the president of the famous Santayana quote, “Those who decline to study history are condemned to repeat it.” Cuba is not only a state sponsor of terrorism, it continues to employ draconian measures to limit freedoms. Note that the quote became the headline.)

Washington Examiner, “Obama: ‘Not interested in fighting battles from ‘before I was born,’” April 11, 2015

“We don’t have heat shields around our airspace,” said Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson about the incursion of Doug Hughes’ gyrocopter onto the grounds of the U.S. Capitol. (As is frequently the case, Johnson noted the incident was being investigated and they didn’t want to overreact, but the “heat shields” line became the headline. He should have noted that it’s clear that technology is racing ahead and the government wants to take appropriate steps to provide security while recognizing innovation and individual freedoms.)

Washington Post, “DHS chief: ‘We don’t have heat shields around our airspace,” April 16, 2015

WRONG THING TO SAY

“Remixing and pivoting” was how Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer described the decision to lay off more than a thousand employees. (Ouch. We understand Yahoo is struggling, and we don’t know if her strategy to focus the company’s attention on search, digital content and communications will work. But when you ax one thousand people, there’s a protocol that smart companies follow: Express regret that employees will be affected. Commit to providing severance, counselling and other assistance. Find and tell the story of an employee who was affected by a previous re-organization and made it through the challenge, however unpleasant, and has found a job and started a new chapter. Thank the affected employees for their contribution and note they will command respect because of their tenure with the company. You do not refer to the act as a “remix.” We understand Mayer was speaking to analysts but she has to know that employees hear what she says. The offensive word made its way into the headline.)

Dice, “Yahoo Called Its Layoffs a ‘Remix.’ Don’t Do That,” April 22, 2015

“An excusable homicide,” is what Scott Wood, attorney for volunteer deputy Robert Bates, called his act of shooting and killing Eric Courtney Harris by pulling out his gun instead of his Taser. (We’d call it a tragedy. What was Bates doing carrying a gun? We’re as pro-Second Amendment as you can get, but there’s a difference between carrying a gun for self-defense and the training badged law enforcement officers receive. The sheriff’s office should have said that they were immediately reviewing the training and deployment of reserve officers and expressed sympathy to the victim’s family.)

CNN, “Deputy charged in Tulsa shooting,” April 14, 2015

“I am a Christian. My company will be run in a way that reflects that. Dishonesty, thievery, immoral behavior, etc. will not be welcomed at MY place of business. (I would not hesitate to refuse service to an openly gay person or persons. Homosexuality is wrong, period. If you want to argue this fact with me then I will put your vehicle together with all bolts and no nuts and you can see how that works,” Brian Klawiter, owner of Michigan car repair business Dieseltec, posted on the company’s Facebook page. (What could he have been thinking? Leaving aside the biblical admonitions about homosexuality, the on-going political initiatives and controversies – Christians are called upon to show compassion, love justice and walk humbly with God. And then there is common sense. Uncivil, mean-spirited comments like this are guaranteed to incense people, including the many well-meaning individuals who are wrestling with the issue. While this post was less than appropriate for an individual rant, it had absolutely no place on a company Facebook page. I’ve got news for Brian: You are not a Christian—or a good business owner, either.)

Salon, “Michigan business owner refuses to serve gay people because you can’t put a car together with ‘all bolts and no nuts,’” April 16, 2015

Cincinnati Reds Manager Bryan Price was upset the local paper released information that the catcher wasn’t going to play at an upcoming game. Apparently the news was shared at a pre-game press conference and posted immediately by the paper. Price let loose a six minute temper tantrum with 77 uses of the “f” word. Price later apologized but apparently hadn’t eliminated the “f” word from his vocabulary. (The story is worth examining as a teaching tool. First, executives need to understand that news today is immediate. Of course the reporter was going to share news or rumors immediately. Second, the apology is dimwitted because Price criticized the reporter for sharing information that the competition can benefit from.)

Deadspin, “Bryan Price Apologizes, Is Still Being Pretty Dumb About This,” April 21, 2015

Candid Camera was a popular show of the 20th century. It’s back! But the new cameras are the increasingly growing presence of security and surveillance cameras. Britt McHenry, a Washington, DC-based ESPN reporter, got crossways with an employee of a towing company. Her mean, elitist, snotty comments are an instant classic in customer service training. The employee warned her that she was being videotaped. Equally astonishing, after a mealy-mouthed and clearly not genuine apology, ESPN has not fired her. They suspended her for a week. What should happen to her? This is a perfect opportunity for the “walk in her shoes” assignment. Britt should spend the week working at the towing company. “I’m in the news, sweetheart. I will f***ing sue this place…I wouldn’t work in a scumbag place like this. That’s all you care about, taking people’s money. With no education, no skill set, just wanted to clarify that. Do you feel good about your job?…So I can be a college dropout and do the same thing? Maybe if I was missing some teeth they would hire me huh? I’m in television and you’re in a f***ing trailer, honey…Lose some weight, baby girl.” McHenry’s apology offered little: “In an intense and stressful moment, I allowed my emotions to get the best of me and said some insulting and regrettable things. As frustrated as I was, I should always choose to be respectful and take the high road. I am so sorry for my actions and will learn from this mistake.”

Time, “ESPN Suspends Reporter Britt McHenry Over Leaked Parking Lot Video,” April 16, 2015

Newly-elected Dallas District Attorney Susan Hawk illustrated the tension between privacy and truth. During her campaign, she checked into an Arizona rehab facility because of her use of prescription pain medication. But she told reporters that she had gone for back surgery. The disparity was leaked by her fired deputy who had been a personal friend. (What should she have done? Hawk ran on a campaign of restoring trust and integrity to the office so an outright lie directly undercuts that message. She could have said she left the campaign for personal reasons, but that would have generated more intense interest. Assuming her explanation – that she took the drugs for back pain and became dependent on them – is true, she could have stayed within the truth by saying she was taking time off for treatment of back pain or a back condition. Remember Jimmy Carter’s press secretary who described what he did for the president as “telling a modified, limited version of the truth.” That would have worked here.)

The Dallas Morning News, “Dallas County DA Susan Hawk dodges questions about turmoil, says she’s ‘moving forward,’” March 30, 2015

When a respected business columnist takes the initiative to give a company communication advice, we take notice. On March 1, 60 Minutes did one of its famous “gotcha” stories about Lumber Liquidators and the accusation that the China-made flooring had high levels of formaldehyde. The company’s on-camera reaction wasn’t good, but that wasn’t what got the attention of Dallas Morning News business columnist Will Deener. He noted that short sellers had targeted the company and that the stock price had dropped 50 percent. He quoted the company’s strategy to “trash the shorts” and printed their reply: “These attacks are driven by a small group of short-selling investors who are working together for the purpose of making money by lowering our stock price. Their motives and methods are wrong, and we will fight them.” (Deener stuck up for the short sellers, noting that they “have to do their homework” and he finished with a quote from President Harry Truman, “I never did give them hell. I just told the truth and they thought it was hell.” Deener’s right, of course. The company should be focusing on making sure it has a truthful, positive story and then telling it.)

The Dallas Morning News, “Will Deener: Short sellers not to blame for Lumber Liquidators’ problems,” April 5, 2015

WRONG THING TO SAY BUT UNFAIR – a new category

The National Relations Labor Board ruled against Chipotle in a dispute about whether the chain had fired a manager for participating in the campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15. A company spokesperson, Patrick Leeper said, “Generally speaking, it is always a top priority for us to remain compliant with all local and federal labor laws.” The website Think Progress pounced on him, implying that Leeper was intentionally putting a caveat around their quote. We believe that’s not true and not fair, and that Leeper’s “generally speaking” was just his way of kick-starting the comment. That’s one reason our technique of acknowledging you heard the question usually puts you back in control of the message.

The Huffington Post, “The High Cost of Fighting for $15,” April 13, 2015

Did actor Robert Downey Jr. blow it when he walked out of an interview with a TV reporter? British Channel 4 Krishnan Guru-Murthy was supposed to be interviewing Downey about his new movie when he veered into questions about drug use and drinking and the actor stormed out. If you watch the entire seven minute interview, the first four are spent promoting the movie and Downey is charming and responsive. Then Guru-Murthy asked about an old quote from an article in The New York Times about not being able to go from a $2,000 a night hotel suite to jail and be able to come out a liberal. Downey gave a nice response; the reporter pressed him about whether he’s a liberal – obviously hoping for a juicy political comment. Downey said, “Are we promoting a movie?” and again continued with a polite response. The reporter continued, “You don’t have to answer them,” giving Downey the perfect opportunity to say “I want to answer questions that will encourage people to go see this movie!” The reporter then popped the question about drugs, drinking and Downey’s father. In response, Downey got up and left. Again, a perfect opportunity to say, “I’m free and blessed to make wonderful movies that people will love if you’ll only let me talk about them.” The reporter is well within his rights – but maybe not his sanity if he wants to continue to do celebrity interviews. The video is a good training tool because it’s so obvious that Downey could have turned it to his advantage.

BBC News, “Robert Downey Jr. opens up on C4 interview walk-out,” April 22, 2015

MORE LESSONS TO LEARN

Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York—probably the most high profile district in the country—is in trouble with some members of the judiciary. Against an environment where judges have accused him of orchestrating a“media firestorm” to embarrass his targets, Bharara chose a dinner party for a departing staff member as the appropriate venue to call Judge Naomi Buchwald “the worst federal judge” he had encountered. Several judges were at the event and – surprise, surprise – they relayed his comments to Buchwald. (What’s surprising from this episode is that Bharara said he expected the remarks to remain private. Really? You severely criticize a federal judge where other federal judges can hear and you expect it not to get back to her? He’s either arrogant beyond measurement or completely unaware of basic communication techniques.)

The New York Times, “Some Fear Fallout From Preet Bharara’s Tension With Judges,” April 17, 2015



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