Three men show how invaluable is a personal reputation


Three men, on different levels and for different reasons, may not go to jail for their transgressions, but they will never restore their reputations. Once trashed, your personal reputation will always stink.

The first, former presidential candidate and Democratic glamour boy John Edwards, may or may not be re-tried on the campaign finance charges he beat this week in Greensboro, NC. His apology was needed, but didn’t shift many opinions about the man. And for the U.S. Justice Department, it’s like trying a politician is as tough as going after the mob — sometimes the prosecution’s witnesses are worse than the defendants.

Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson misrepresented his accomplishments on his resume, a no-no going back to Caesar’s time. Thompson paid the price. Why that for something so seemingly trite? How can anyone trust an individual who lies about himself? What else is he saying?

So many of these transgressions come back to stupidity and questions like, what were they thinking? Was Thompson’s resume not impressive enough without the embellishments to reach the top at Yahoo? Did Edwards really need a mistress at that stage of his life? And that leads to the third example.

Dr. James Corasanti is not known outside Western New York, but inside it he’s bigger than these other two men combined. A month-long trial ended Wednesday night with not guilty verdicts on all the major charges stemming from his fatal collision with 18-year-old skateboarder Alix Rice on a suburban Buffalo road last summer.

Public opinion convicted him long ago. A jury saw the evidence differently. Community anguish and anger persist. And while Corasanti still faces civil suits his insurance company will most likely pay, and will probably experience a drop off in his practice, his biggest hit will be his destroyed reputation.

His defense lawyers were smart in answering community outrage about how a doctor could flee the scene of an accident without seeking to aid the victim. They said he absolutely would have stopped if he’d known he hit a person. After the senseless death of a loveable 18-year-old girl, and Corasanti’s apparent driving while intoxicated, most observers scorned his leaving her to die.

Subsequent testimony showed Rice died instantly. But he’ll forever be the doctor who declined to help a patient, “leaving her to die,” as far as he may have known.

Three men, three varied transgressions, none able to reconstitute their reputations. They’ve endured killer crises, won’t go to jail and to some should be restored to innocence. But they will never get their good reputations back.

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About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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