Bimbo Banter

BIMBO Nominees for June 2010

  • Bimbo
  • June 1, 2010
  • by Spaeth Communications

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Professional athletes Dez Bryant and Dwight Howard use “bad” words that crowd out all the good messages and land them in this month’s BIMBO memo. They aren’t alone; a European Union commissioner and John Edwards’ mistress, as well as Tea Party Express Director Amy Kremer, fall into the trap. Miss USA handles negative photographs as poorly as Connecticut attorney general handles getting caught in a lie.  Congressman Mark Souder resigns for the wrong reasons, while Kentucky Republican primary winner and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg get trapped by the parameters of reporters’ questions. We also have a woman who needs to take her own advice, and an example of too much jargon. The FULL MEMO rounds out with some examples of communication and corporate culture, lack of common sense and debate coaches in the U.K. 

The Winner From the WRONG THING TO SAY

“Several troubled, troubled people,” was how Novartis’ lawyer, Richard Schnadig, described the women bringing a class action suit against the pharmaceutical company. Schnadig attacked the claims of the women that the company had an environment hostile to women, saying the women were “lie telling,” that the case wasn’t “about mommy time” and that the company wasn’t obligated to “make their lives special.” He referred to one of the plaintiffs as “that little blonde.”  (The jury returned a verdict of $250 million for discriminating against women in pay and promotion. Back pay and compensatory amounts will be added. Schnadig also claimed that it takes time for society to change.  All we have are the press reports of this case, but it’s instructive to look at how the jury “heard” the company’s defense and they didn’t like the company. We’ve made this point repeatedly: likeability may not be enshrined in the law but it’s very real.)

Bloomberg, “I’d like some sex with that Drug Order,” May 21, 2010


“I am not a home wrecker,” said Rielle Hunter, John Edwards’ mistress and mother of his baby girl. She told Oprah Winfrey that posing for GQ in panties and a man’s shirt was a “mistake,” but she said she has no regrets. Well, except for making a sex tape with Edwards, that they didn’t use birth control, and that she knew that Edwards was married when she went to his room for the first night. (There is absolutely nothing Ms. Hunter could say except abject apologies for her destructive and selfish behavior. We’re in the business of helping clients find truthful explanations, not personality transplants.)

ABC News, “Rielle Hunter: I’m not a home wrecker,” April 29, 2010

“No, I didn’t tell him my dad was a pimp,” said rookie Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant. (This is an interesting example of how “bad words” get picked up and crowd out positive messages. The talented Mr. Bryant had a conversation with Sports Illustrated reporter Jim Trotter where they discussed an interview with the Miami general manager Jeff Ireland. In that interview Ireland stumbled into a discussion of what Bryant’s father did, and Bryant answered that his father was a pimp, prompting a follow-up question about what his mother did. When Bryant said his mother worked for his father, Ireland asked if she was a prostitute.  Bryant contends that the exchange never happened, but Ireland publicly apologized for the question about Bryant’s mother. Why would he apologize for something he didn’t say? The lesson: In today’s world, especially when talking to a reporter with multiple outlets, stay away from bad words!)

ESPN, “Bryant denies calling dad a ‘pimp,’” April 30, 2010

“Lawrence Taylor did not rape anyone,” said Arthur Aidala, the football legend’s lawyer, after Taylor was arrested on charges of having sex with a 16-year-old girl. Adding, “My client did not have sex with anybody, period, amen.” (Calling all lawyers! No bad words. Mr. Aidala went on to add that his client “has not touched any drugs in over a dozen years.”  He also said that Lawrence only wanted to “get back to Florida to be with his wife.”  He should have limited himself to that, perhaps adding, “Lawrence values his reputation, is innocent and will mount a vigorous case so the jury and public believe him.” Note that the charge made it into the headline.), “Lawyer: ‘Lawrence Taylor did not rape anyone,’” May 6, 2010

“There is no queue out of the euro,” said European Union Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn about the economic problems in Greece and other EU countries. (This comment was a classic BIMBO, where a reporter asked Rehn if there was a queue or stampede out of the euro as a currency. Rehn did add, “There is a queue into the euro,” which may or may not be true, but it’s an example of inverted speech. Notice that the negative phrase made it into the headline.)

Bloomberg, “Rehn Says ‘No Queue Out of the Euro,’” May 12, 2010

“I’m not seeking any publicity for this action,” said Lt. Col. Terry Lakin, a decorated Army doctor who is refusing deployment to Afghanistan because he claims President Obama is not a U.S.-born citizen, and therefore not legally president. (The whole fascination with President Obama’s birth eludes us, but we cannot understand why he doesn’t just release an original copy, rather than the computer printout, of his birth certificate. Dr. Lakin, his attorney and a very hostile Anderson Cooper argued at length about the issue. A note to Dr. Lakin: You can’t appear on CNN and claim you aren’t seeking publicity. Send a statement the next time.)

Washington Post, “The birther colonel takes his case to CNN,” May 10, 2010

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” said newly anointed Miss USA Rima Fakih on the recently published pictures of her pole dancing in 2007. (The lesson is that if you gain national attention and you have potential negative press - pictures and/or stories – out yourself. Don’t wait for it to leak out. Again, notice that the denial makes the headline.)

NBC, “Miss USA on Pole Dance Pics: “I Didn’t Do Anything Wrong,’” May 19, 2010

“This is not a racist movement,” said Tea Party Express Director Amy Kremer after being queried about signs in tea party crowds that display negative language about immigrants. (Ms. Kremer was on “The View” and it was predictable that she would be skewered. Most of the interview was good, but one mistake – one denial – crowds out the other messages.)

Associated Content, “Amy Kremer of the Tea Party Express on The View,” May 6, 2010

“I am not a complainer,” said basketball player Dwight Howard about publicized outbursts. (The article was generally positive, but the “complainer” comment was plucked out and used in the cutline of the large picture and the teaser on the front page. Again, the message is that any denial crowds out positive messages. Note again the comment made the headline on the front page teaser.)

USA Today, “I am not a complainer,” May 4, 2010

After a highly publicized incident where men wearing military-type uniforms, combat boots and black berets patrolled Philadelphia voting places, the Black Panther party released a statement which read, “We do not support voter intimidation.” After the Department of Justice dismissed the charges and the Panthers characterized the incident as a “mishap,” the Civil Rights Commission announced it would pursue its own investigation. (This was clearly an organized attempt, and we hope the Civil Rights Commission pursues its investigation to the fullest extent possible. To try to downplay the strategy as an isolated “mishap” is insulting, made more so by the Justice Department’s indifference.)

The Washington Times, “Black Panthers deem voter incident ‘mishap’” May 3, 2010

“I heard nothing today that makes me think anything went wrong,” said Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein before a Senate panel examining the causes behind the financial meltdown. (Goldman Sachs will become a business school case study about corporate culture. Mr. Blankfein did a long interview with Charlie Rose and blamed his own employees for the famous e-mails discussing palming off risky investments on “widows and orphans.” Mr. Blankfein, who created the corporate culture that enabled these comments? You are responsible. You should be talking to your employees, not Charlie Rose. If any C-suite inhabitants wonder if communication is a strategic business tool that affects a company, consider the headline in The New York Times that blared, “Goldman’s Market Value Plunges $21 Billion.” That’s real money.)

Bloomberg Business Week, “In Goldman’s Defiance, A Hint of Truce,” May 3, 2010

The Dallas Morning News, “Goldman Chief Faults Employees,” May 2, 2010


“We have learned something important since the days when I served in Vietnam,” said Connecticut Attorney General and Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal, who on a number of occasions made similar comments indicating he had served in Vietnam. He had not. When media outlets tracked down videotape and multiple news stories with similar statements, Mr. Blumenthal reacted angrily, calling them “misplaced words” or “misstatements” that were “totally unintentional” and charging that his opponents were seeking to “impugn my record of service.”   (It’s always the cover-up or second step which trips people up. Of course Mr. Blumenthal meant to mislead people. He just didn’t expect to be called of it. What he should have said was, “I am so sorry. This falls into the stupid category. I’m proud of my service with the Marine Reserves.  I so admire the men and women who served that I led people to think I had served in Vietnam. I had not. I apologize to the brave service personnel who did. It won’t happen again.”)

USA Today, “Great Pretenders drown in their lies,” May 20, 2010

The New York Times, “Candidate’s Words Differ From His History,” May 18, 2010

The Wall Street Journal, “Blumenthal Says He Misspoke on Military Record,” May 19, 2010

“In the poisonous environment of Washington, D.C., any personal failing is seized upon, often twisted for political gain. I am resigning rather than to put my family through the painful, drawn-out process,” said resigning Congressman Mark Souder after being caught in an affair with a staff member. (What is in the water up there? The eight-term congressman was outspoken on the importance of abstinence education and fierce on the moral failings of those who contracted AIDS. Chalk up another for the hypocrisy brigades. What should he have said? “I apologize for letting down my family and my constituents, and I’m resigning because my behavior undercuts the policy I have advocated.”)

The Huffington Post, “Souder, Leading Drug Warrior, Asks Forgiveness for Sins,” May 21, 2010

“Home grown, maybe a mentally deranged person or somebody with a political agenda that doesn’t like the health care bill or something,” was New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s speculation about the origins and motives of the Times Square bomber. (The person who planted the bomb, although a naturalized U.S. citizen, turned out to be Pakistani and had returned to Pakistan for training. Rather than try to be politically correct, the mayor should have said, “It’s too early to speculate. We’ll let the authorities’ investigations run their course, and I have confidence they’ll be thorough and fair. The message for all New Yorkers and our visitors is that we have an alert, concerned citizenry and we work together.”), “CBS Features NY Mayor Bloomberg Speculating Bomber Was Mad About ObamaCare,” May 3, 2010

Luann Haley greeted President Obama on a trip to Buffalo by saying, “You’re a hottie with a smokin’ little body.” (Although President Obama graciously laughed off the line, posed for a picture and a hug, the disrespect and inappropriate nature of the comment made headlines around the world. The New York Times, The New York Post and The New York Daily News featured it with headlines, and it went viral on the Internet. What to learn? Ms. Haley finally told NBC, “People tell me I should think before I open my mouth.”  Ya think?)

MSNBC, “Buffalo cougar: I’m sorry I flirted with Obama: Woman ‘meant no harm’ calling president ‘hottie with a smokin’ little body,’” May 14, 2010


President Obama’s chief economic advisor, Larry Summers, spoke to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and described the potential economic collapse of Europe and the American recession as only a “fluctuation.”  Press reports of the speech included phrases like “liquidity trap,” “width of the confidence interval” and “a range of catalyzing investments.”  (The reporter in attendance also noted that Summers used so many “on the one hand this, on the other hand,” that he felt he had to reprise President Truman’s comment that he only wanted “one handed economists.” He should have lost the jargon and spoke plain English. We are reminded of something that James D’Agostino, now CEO of Encore Bank, undertook as President of American General Life & Accident. He took a Twinkie off the shelf one day and wondered why insurance policies couldn’t have the same kind of labeling that Twinkies had – simple, standard and easy to understand.  And then he undertook the task. Perhaps the Obama administration should call on Mr. D’Agostino to translate.)

The Washington Post, “Summers needs to take Explaining Econ 101,” May 25, 2010   


A North Carolina waitress was fired after complaining on Facebook about a tip and a couple who lingered in the restaurant, causing her to be kept late. Ashley Johnson mentioned the restaurant by name and called the customer “cheap.” Someone is always listening. Perhaps remember what Ms. Haley advises—think before you speak, or in this case Facebook.

MSNBC, “Waitress fired for griping about tip on Facebook,” May 17, 2010

Eastern Airlines, a British airline, refused to transport a wheelchair-bound athlete because he couldn’t walk up the steps to board the aircraft. Richie Powell offered to pull himself up by his hands but was refused. (This falls into the “where is the common sense?” category. Where is the apology from the airlines or a commitment to support the Paralympics? Another lesson is that an incident like this will make news around the world. )

E Turbo News, “Eastern Airways: Wheelchair-bound Paralympian can only fly if he can walk up the steps,” May 2, 2010 


“Yes,” was how Dr. Rand Paul, winner of the Kentucky Republican primary for Senate, answered MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow’s question, “Do you think a private business has the right to say we don’t serve black people?” Predictably, it caused a firestorm. (Paul went on to describe people who would discriminate as “boorish” and “uncivilized.” Dr. Paul needs to understand our principle of how to acknowledge hearing a question without being trapped by the parameters. This “framing” question was a set up, and he fell right into the trap. He should have said, “no,” but he could have said, “that’s irrelevant,” or “probably not,” and then transitioned back to the fiscal issues that are at the heart of the tea party. If he’s going to talk – and talk endlessly - about every issue, he’s going to squander his message, give his opponents powerful weapons to use against him and make himself look like a cartoon character. His father, congressman and libertarian icon Ron Paul, complained that it was not fair for the media to treat his son this way. Are you kidding? This is just getting started. Dr. Paul better diagnose his strengths and weaknesses a whole lot better.)

The Dallas Morning News, “Paul tries to clarify remark on barring blacks,” May 21, 2010


Worth noting is that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who lost the recent election in the U.K., and David Cameron of the Tory party used debate coaches with big credentials but both were judged as being stiff and scripted compared to Liberal Nick Clegg. (Cameron worked with former White House Communications Director Anita Dunn. Lesson: it’s a new age. Authenticity and a conversational tone coupled with humor are critical these days. Start to practice early, before you need it.)

Bloomberg Business Week, “A British Toss-up with an America Twist,” May 3, 2010

The court finding in Munich that former Siemens managers were guilty of bribery in Nigeria and similar investigations in China is another example of corporate culture and how it can cost big bucks. Some 300 people are under investigation for the Nigeria and Russian contracts. It has cost the company over 2.5 billion euros in fines, investigations and back taxes as well as $185 million to settle with the U.S. SEC and Justice Department. (A remedial course in ethics and culture for both Goldman Sachs and Siemens?)

PBS, “China Mobile Staffer Implicated in Siemens Bribery Case,” April 27, 2010

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