Sometimes a crisis is so bad, you must throw in the towel and rebuild


The easiest job in America is being a TV weathercaster in San Diego. The forecast is the same 300 days a year because the weather is almost always perfect.

Forecasting what Mayor Bob Filner is going to do today and in the weeks that follow is much tougher. Filner, as you probably know by now, is turning San Diego into a laughingstock and motivating efforts to get 100,000 petition signatures to remove him from office.

There seems little doubt in anyone’s mind that he’s a serial sexual harasser, or worse. More than a dozen woman have come forward and made public accusations that he groped, kissed or otherwise harassed them.

Given the emotional weight of these assaults, the fact that 16 women came forward shows extraordinary courage, determination to see this jerk go down and interest in telling other women and their harassers enough is enough.

Filner, for his part, apologized, but refuses to resign.

“I begin today by apologizing to you. I have diminished the office to which you elected me. I have reached into my heart and soul and realize I must and will change my behavior,” he said in a statement July 11. “As someone who has spent a lifetime fighting for equality for all people, I am embarrassed to admit that I have failed to fully respect the women who work for me and with me, and that at times I have intimidated them. I am also humbled to admit that I need help. I have begun to work with professionals to make changes in my behavior and approach. In addition, my staff and I will participate in sexual harassment training provided by the city. Please know that I fully understand that only I am the one who can make these changes.”

He entered a treatment facility some weeks ago and is due back at the office today. No one’s sure if he’ll show. Those who know him say the 70-year-old Democrat is a stubborn fighter and won’t exit easily.

However, he really should.

Facts — as overwhelming as they are — aside, for crisis managers it’s not the intensity of the crisis or the seriousness of the allegations, it’s the duration. Is any work getting done in the mayor’s office? Is San Diego pushing forward with broad new initiatives to solve its pressing problems? Not likely.

There comes a time in many crises where the best thing to do is admit defeat and leave. Get out. Try to set up for a future that you are only damaging by fighting the wrong fight.

Former President Richard Nixon comes to mind as someone who did this very well. Overwhelmed and frozen by Watergate, he left office. Within a year, he was speaking and eventually wrote several books, including his memoirs. Bill Clinton is another obvious example of a rehabbed politician. He receives as much as $700,000 for a speech. The list goes on.

The best move for everyone is if Filner realizes this and resigns. That’s the only way this crisis ends.

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.

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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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