Last week's Scandal episode featured the super ambitious Josie Marcus, played by Lisa Kudrow, who's a current Member of Congress planning to run against Fitz in the Presidential election. We learned that at 15, Josie gave birth to a daughter who was told they were sisters.
Josie wanted to keep this tidbit a secret and, for some reason, thought that was possible. Well, she couldn't. It's a game-changer and game-changers aren't always secrets kept during high-profile political campaigns. The higher the position and the higher a candidate's chances of being a serious contender, the more dirt will be dug.
One of the biggest issues with misunderstanding crisis management is the assumption that dealing with a crisis is the same as making it go away. Nope. It's not. There are times - many - when the only way to beat a crisis is to have your own coming out party for the issue.
Take President Obama for example, his adversaries did not have much of an opportunity to paint a negative picture of a young, drug-curious Barack. Why? Because Obama put the things that could have been used against him out there himself.
To the right is a question from Essence's Twitter account regarding owning up to a secret and my response:
Make your confession. Use your language. CONTROL THE NARRATIVE. It was inevitable that Josie's story would break, but telling it in her voice was the difference between political life and death. Because Obama was the one responsible for shedding light on his past, he was able to provide context; something that is ALWAYS distorted by an opponent.
Yes, Josie was upset that she was forced to reveal her secret pregnancy and even fired Olivia for not making the story go away. But, telling her story her way was the ultimate win. Simply put, effectively managing a crisis is rarely about the crisis itself and more about how you approach the situation.
Former Congressman and NYC Mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner could have survived Weinergate. He could have remained on the Hill until he was ready to run for Mayor. But he lied and was incredulous and lied even more and was condescending with his lies. He treated the public like we were dumb enough to believe his sloppy lies and he suffered greatly as a result.
However, people are receptive to comebacks; we love redemption. Even after being sent into exile, Weiner was still a viable mayoral candidate. He could have won if he'd counted his losses and discontinued (or at least temporarily suspended) his -- again, sloppy -- transgressions. But, he didn't. He apologized while continuing to do what he did that forced him to lie then resign then apologize then seek treatment in the first place.
It's hard to support a man who is caught doing wrong, lies about doing wrong, continues to do wrong and then seems not the least bit sorry that he's gotten caught doing wrong and lying about it. This is why the universe hates Former Presidential candidate John Edwards. There's only one Bill Clinton and after Monica, you never heard a peep of any transgression. Why? Probably because he likes being revered.
I'll be the first to admit that people in my field really and truly do work magic, but don't expect us to tell you performing disappearing acts with your dirt is the only way to adequately handle a scandal.