Bimbo Banter


BIMBO Nominees for May 2021


  • Bimbo
  • April 30, 2021
  • by Spaeth Communications

Bimbo blog image a

This month our memo includes BIMBO comments from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Michigan Gov. Whitmer and a frozen-yogurt store. NBC News anchor Lester Holt and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky say the wrong things, and you’ll read about how CBS showed why you should record everything, why you should say “I don’t know” if you don’t and why we think Amazon deserves more credit for the way it handled a critique from Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., on Twitter. Also included are two examples demonstrating why words matter and an innovative new wave of public-health advocacy. All in all, this was a good, blunder-filled month!

THE WINNING BIMBO

“Matt Gaetz has never paid for sex," read a statement from the office of Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, in response to allegations and a federal investigation into Gaetz and his Florida associate for paying for sex. (It’s no surprise that his former communications director, Luke Ball, bailed because the allegations were so sensational. Gaetz and his office said all the wrong things multiple times, such as "Matt Gaetz refutes all the disgusting allegations completely. Matt Gaetz has never ever been on any such websites whatsoever. Matt Gaetz cherishes the relationships in his past and looks forward to marrying the love of his life." The flamboyant and bombastic congressman, a big supporter of Former President Donald Trump, also said in an opinion piece published in the Washington Examiner, “Washington scandal cycles are predictable, and sex is especially potent in politics. Let me first remind everyone that I am a representative in Congress, not a monk, and certainly not a criminal.” But there’s more: “Yes, just like the mafia, the D.C. swamp protects its ‘made men.’ Since I’m taking my turn under the gun, let me address the allegations against me directly. First, I have never, ever paid for sex. And second, I, as an adult man, have not slept with a 17-year-old.” Where to start dissecting this? He brought in the mafia, gave the allegations more visibility by repeating them and nitpicking the charges appeared to confirm that he did have sex with minors. There’s nothing we can advise that he should have said except, “I resign while I grow up.” Oh yes, one more piece of advice. Gaetz hired a communications firm whose website included no headshots or bios of its employees, no case studies, no examples and no information yet claimed to be a firm about how to tell your story…sign language anyone?)

ABC News, “Rep. Matt Gaetz's communications director resigns amid probe into allegations regarding Gaetz's sexual relationships,” April 2, 2021

THE RUNNERS-UP

“No need for panic,” was a phrase included in the headline of The Wall Street Journal’s article about the possible link of serious blood clots and death to Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine. (This article also included an example of a common mistake made when referencing statistics. In instances like this, people and companies want to say adverse events appear to be extremely rare. In a CNN Health article about the controversy, Dr. Carlos del Rio, executive associate dean of the Emory University School of Medicine at Grady Health System, said, "It's a very rare event. You're talking about 1 per million, and when you give millions of doses of vaccines, you will see events like this that you couldn't see in the clinical trial just because you didn't have millions of people enrolled." The problem is that when the listener hears “very rare,” it confirms the negative effects happen. It was good that U.S. health authorities recommended a “pause” of the vaccine rather than using words like “stop,” “cease,” “halt” or “standstill.” However, it would have helped had authorities put relevant numbers in context. For example, authorities should have posed the question, “Are you afraid of being struck by lightning?” and then said, “Because there is a greater chance of being struck by lightning than developing a blood clot from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.” Another analogy includes winning the lottery, which is about a one in 300 million chance, but people still play. The point is, you don’t instill confidence by saying “don’t panic,” and you don’t calm what are emotional fears by using facts. You calm them by showing people other people they identify with who have confidence in the vaccine. See this story about enlisting and training hair stylists and barbers to talk to individuals of color about vaccine safety and effectiveness as proof.)

The Wall Street Journal, “No Need for Panic Over J&J Covid-19 Vaccine Pause,” April 13, 2021

“It’s not about court-packing," said President Joe Biden after announcing the creation of a commission to study whether the Supreme Court should be expanded. (Although Biden added, "There's a number of other things that our constitutional scholars have debated...The last thing we need to do is turn the Supreme Court into just a political football, whoever has the most votes gets whatever they want. Presidents come and go. Supreme Court justices stay for generations." Congressional Democrats almost simultaneously introduced legislation expanding the court from nine to 13 justices. Biden harmed himself with the establishment of this commission, although there are a number of other semi-mainstream ideas such as those from Chief Justice John Roberts himself who has mused that term limits of around 15 years would provide long service opportunities. We’re hoping that the powers that be keep their hands off the court. Experts have properly noted that the underlying issue is Congress refusing to fulfill its constitutional responsibility to pass specific legislation to deal with important issues.)

CNN Politics, “Don't be fooled: The Supreme Court isn't expanding anytime soon,” April 15, 2021

“I’m not a roadblock at all,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in response to a question about critics’ claims that he is an obstacle to Democrats’ ambitious agenda. (We certainly hope he’s right and meant what he said. If not, this comment will come back to haunt him.) 

The Daily Caller, “‘I Am Not A Roadblock’: Joe Manchin Says He Just Wants The System To Work As It Should,” April 25, 2021

“There was not fraud,” insisted Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer criticizing a number of bills drafted by Republicans to either standardize voting rules to assure integrity or restrict minority voting, depending on your ideological point of view. (Whitmer’s announcement was overshadowed by a pillow with Dr. Anthony Fauci’s face on it just behind her on a shelf. The rest of her comments were actually credible, although the debate about requiring identification has always seemed absurd to us. You can’t get on an airplane without a photo ID. But, this is a debate not so much about facts but about worldview and, as noted, ideology. Whitmer is on somewhat shaky communication ground because she called for people not to go to Florida on spring break but was caught traveling to Florida herself. Her defense was that she was going to visit a sick parent. She argued that her father was fully vaccinated although, at the time, she was not. She has been outed several times disregarding restrictions she put in place for others. Her office made the classic mistake of overexplaining and rationalizing. A spokeswoman for Whitmer said she is tested regularly and has never tested positive for COVID. The trip was not paid for at taxpayers' expense.")

The Hill, “Whitmer criticizes GOP election reform in video featuring Fauci pillow,” April 1, 2021

“We are not diet vultures,” a spokesperson for a frozen-yogurt store, The Bigg Chill Frozen Yogurt, said responding to a slap from pop singer Demi Lovato who felt triggered by the store’s display of “sugar free cookies/other diet foods.” (We know Lovato has a well-documented story about her struggle with eating disorders, but we’re puzzled about how calling a small, woman-owned business “#DietCultureVultures” can help anyone. In its response to Lovato, the yogurt shop also said, “We cater to all of our customers’ needs for the past 36 years. We are sorry you found this offensive.” We wish they hadn’t apologized.)

The Washington Times, “Demi Lovato picks fight with woman-owned L.A. shop over 'triggering' low-fat yogurt,” April 19, 2021

WRONG THING TO SAY

“No. 1 is I think it’s become clear that fairness is overrated,” said NBC News Anchor Lester Holt while accepting the Edward R. Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award from Washington State University. (We don’t know whether to laugh or weep, but at least he’s being honest, adding, “The idea that we should always give two sides equal weight and merit does not reflect the world we find ourselves in.” We’ve known forever that so-called journalists don’t report differing opinions equally, but at least they used to pay lip service to the concept of balanced reporting. What Holt is calling for isn’t journalism, it’s propaganda. We might try to opine on what Holt could have said, but this Washington Examiner opinion piece said it better than we could.)

The Western Journal, “NBC Anchor Claims 'Fairness Is Overrated' in Journalism While Accepting Award,” April 1, 2021

“Impending doom,” was the sensational phrase used by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky during a White House briefing. (Predictably, although her overall comment was measured and thoughtful, this is an example of why it’s important to be careful with your words and an illustration that the media sees its job as painting the worst, most sensational picture. Walensky’s entire comment was, "I'm going to lose the script, and I'm going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom. We have so much to look forward to so much promise and potential of where we are, and so much reason for hope. But right now I'm scared.”)

The Hill, “CDC director warns of 'impending doom' on potential new COVID-19 surge,” March 29, 2021

MORE EXAMPLES

We’ve always recommended that our clients record all interviews themselves not only so they can critique themselves but also to have an unedited version on hand in the rare event when there is a dispute about what was said. The importance of this advice was on display when CBS’s “60 Minutes” deceptively edited an exchange between one of its reporters and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. She asked DeSantis about a charge that he assigned a contract to host vaccinations to grocery-store chain Publix in return for a $100,000 campaign contribution, a pay-to-play scheme. DeSantis gave a lengthy, somewhat-combative explanation and a timeline rebutting the premise of her question, but CBS edited it to create a very different impression: that DeSantis had been caught in the act. This example is unusual because uninterrupted footage of the exchange existed on social media and Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner, a Democrat, also immediately spoke up to defend DeSantis. Learnings: do record all encounters with reporters (and others liable to edit and spread them) and do develop relationships with third parties who will step up and defend you. Oh, and CBS and other media outlets should remember these same rules apply to them. Media outlets are under scrutiny just as much as the people their reporters interview.

The Daily Wire, “CBS Deceptively Edits Reporter’s Interaction With FL Governor Ron DeSantis. Here’s What He Really Said.,” April 4, 2021

This example demonstrates why if one’s answer is “I don’t know,” it’s better to say it than to prove it.  Dr. Scott Weisenberg, the director of the travel medicine program at NYU Langone Health, was quoted discussing whether people need to be worried about the new COVID-19 variant circulating. His response was that the CDC is, "still learning how effective the vaccines are against variants of the virus that causes COVID-19. Early data show the vaccines may work against some variants but could be less effective against others." He kept going, adding, "The key factors now are how quickly people get vaccinated and how well these vaccines work against the new variants," and noting vaccines will "be the ticket for us to return to something of a normal life." But wait! There’s more. "It's not going to be a risk free situation, but there's going to be things that people can do that [are] going to identify the risk and know how to modify it," he said. "And vaccines are part of that," he added. This wordy answer shrinks all the way down to “We don’t know.” This is where the concept of acknowledging the question would have been so helpful. He could have said, “It’s not that simple,” and then delivered his important yet buried headline: “[Vaccines will] be the ticket for us to return to something of a normal life."

Travel + Leisure, “Everything You Need to Know About Traveling Once You're Vaccinated, According to a Doctor,” March 22, 2021

Amazon handled a tweet from Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., much better than reported. There was an exchange of tweets that began when Pocan commented on Amazon’s Dave Clark’s tweet asserting the company had successfully created a progressive workplace. Pocan replied, “Paying workers $15/hr doesn’t make you a ‘progressive workplace’ when you union-bust & make workers urinate in water bottles.” This sparked discussions regarding negative allegations about how the giant company treats its workers. Amazon initially fell into the trap of explaining and rationalizing, saying the pandemic had stressed working conditions plus closed many public restrooms and that similar companies were experiencing similar problems. They quickly ditched that tactic and apologized. They also came up with a great quote, “Regardless of the fact that this is industry-wide, we would like to solve it. We don’t yet know how but will look for solutions.” Smart move. And Amazon certainly had the last laugh because shortly after the Twitter exchange, workers at one of its warehouses in Alabama handed unions a stinging defeat when they voted to reject a union bid.

WISN 12 News, “Amazon apologizes to WI congressman Mark Pocan,” April 4, 2021

Our mantra has always been “words matter,” so it’s been interesting to watch the discussion on how to get reluctant people to accept and receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Remember the “My Fair Lady” song that notes, “There even are places where English completely disappears. Well, in America, they haven't used it for years!” Turns out, a big difference in English from one side of the pond to the other is whether you get a “shot” or a “jab,” a British-slang term for vaccines. In the U.S., apparently the term “jab” has produced a furious backlash. (Of course, everything on Twitter produces a furious backlash.) We’re not taking a position on it, but it’s an interesting debate and another example of how words matter.

The Wall Street Journal, “‘Jab’: A British Term for a Covid-19 Shot, but Born in the U.S.A.,” April 8, 2021

A similar debate is going on in the esoteric computing world over whether or not code and database terms are racist. For example, some refer to their databases as “masters” and those linked to it as “slaves.” This New York Times article demonstrated how people are taking offense at those words as well as common industry terms like “whitelists” and “blacklists.” Here we invoke culture guru Larry Senn and his “Mood Elevator,” one of the best roadmaps for achieving a positive corporate culture. One of his main admonitions is “Assume positive intention.” Can we buy a copy of his book for all the people named in this article?

The New York Times, “‘Master,’ ‘Slave’ and the Fight Over Offensive Terms in Computing,” April 13, 2021

“A new wave of public health advocacy that is multilingual, culturally sensitive, entertaining and personal is rapidly replacing mundane public service announcements on TV, radio and online in the battle to stamp out vaccine disinformation circulating in communities of color and get more people vaccinated” is a quote from a great, must-read article for anyone who wants to be inspired about using non-traditional routes of communication and influence. Also, this serves as a key reminder of the importance of true person-to-person communication, a network often overshadowed by social media.

The Houston Chronicle, “Barbers, artists help defy vaccine myths for people of color,” April 16, 2021

 

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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