This has been a bad week for politicians. First we had Weinergate, where Rep Anthony Weiner (D-NY) denied then admitted today to tweeting a picture of his private parts to someone in his personal life; and late on Friday a federal grand jury indicted John Edwards for using campaign funds to cover up an extramarital affair and the baby that was born of that union. The common thread of political and sexual hijinx is something both stories share. But the relevant commonality to the PR community between the Weiner Twitter scandal and the Edwards denoument is the lousy cover-up and resultant lack of damage control that both men employed in the wake of each scandal. For Edwards, it may have cost him the 2008 presidential nomination and it definitely cost him his career. Weiner, with today’s admission, is likely toast.
As we know in politics, it’s not the crime, it’s the cover up that revolts the public. President Kennedy apologized for the Bay of Pigs scandal and was lauded for taking responsibility for his actions. But few political figures follow President Kennedy’s example – instead choosing to take matters into their own hands by lying and denying, even in the face of paternity tests, video tape, or a hacked Twitter feed.
Had he admitted his faux pas right away, things clearly would have been different. But instead, he made jokes, insulted reporters and was completely silent over the weekend. Acting like a high school student caught with booze at the prom is never a good idea. And we are certain that Weiner has a large team of PR and political advisors who implored him to behave differently in the wake of this hack. But clients ultimately do what they want, and all we can do is consult, advise and sometimes, even beg them to handle unpleasant publicity in a manner that aims to right the sinking ship.
What do you think? Has Weiner’s handling of the Twitter leak damaged his rising star beyond repair? What would you have advised him if he was your client? Let us know.