There’s an unofficial rule in crisis management that says “Two strikes and you’re out.”
Unlike the foundational baseball rule, the infamous California criminal penalty, or related warnings about counting to three before you’re in serious doo doo, tarnished public figures only get two.
If you’ve sinned in public in uncomfortable ways like Anthony Weiner has, you don’t get a second chance. He may think he will, or that he deserves a third strike, but he doesn’t.
Why? Because the other clichés with a basis in fact are that “everyone gets the benefit of the doubt” and its ancillary “Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice, shame on me.”
Even the expressed support of his wife, Huma Abedin, this time won’t matter, even with her namesake allusion to “Honest Abe.”
This is especially true if the individual crisis is sexual, financial or criminal. If Eliot Spitzer were caught again with prostitutes? Done. If Gen. David Petraeus had another affair exposed? Cooked. If Kobe Bryant were again accused of rape, or George Zimmerman shot someone else? Over. How de-sensitized are judges to Lindsay Lohan’s issues? Gone.
Even though Weiner says he warned everyone that “more” sexually explicit text messages he sent to women other than his wife might emerge, it doesn’t matter.
It’s about trust. OK, we can accept you screwed up once. We’ll let that slide because otherwise you seem a smart, effective, reasonable elected official. Your body of work is not all about your own body.
We believe you can control your urges and keep them within the limits of acceptable behavior — for a politician. That is of course not the same as that of a Boy Scout, religious leader, teacher, police officer, president or candidate for sainthood. But we’ll let you slide — this once.
But like an alcoholic, addicted gambler or drug user, if you relapse, you’re done. We’re not going to trust you with our vote, our city, our future. Get thee to rehab.
If we can’t believe his promises of repairing his family relationships and essentially cleaning up his act — he admitted his sexting went on for a year after he resigned from Congress two years ago — we can’t believe he’ll watch over the city budget or contracts or personnel decisions effectively.
As the New York Daily News headline put it today: Beat It!
The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at http://www.mower.com. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.