The industry’s most effective public relations professionals zealously guard and champion the interests of their clients. They know the mindsets of those they’re paid to serve and what keeps them awake at night. Sometimes, however, this unfettered devotion crosses an ethical boundary as several folks witnessed last night when Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski physically accosted a pesky reporter following a campaign event in Florida.
Politico reports that:
[Breitbart reporter Michelle] “Fields was attempting to ask Trump a question as he exited the press conference. Secret Service was starting to clear a path, when Fields was forcibly grabbed on her arm by Lewandowski, moving her out of the way and nearly bringing her down to the ground…”
Now we’ve all come to expect every flavor of histrionics and bad behavior from the Trump campaign, and we might question whether Breitbart is even a legitimate journalistic enterprise. Still it’s amply clear that Mr. Lewandowski’s boss paved the way for this kind of roguish behavior by personally taunting the gaggle of journalists the campaign pens off, liked caged animals, in the rear of his public events.
When I was in my early 20’s, I took a leave of absence from Hill & Knowlton (now H&K Strategies) to volunteer as NY State press coordinator for the Gary Hart campaign for President. Other than the myriad miscreants who came out of the Democratic woodwork to work on the campaign, I’ll always remember one press event we organized for Sen. Hart in Grand Central Station during the morning rush hour.
To ensure some modicum of orderliness, we erected stanchions and a press riser, brought in A/V, and I think we even had a mult-box at the riser for ENG crews and radio to get clean audio feeds.
What we didn’t anticipate was a boisterous and physically unruly group of pro-Gary Hart supporters who turned up, just as the candidate arrived, and attempted to commandeer the event to draw attention to their issue. In today’s terms, they were akin to Move On or PETA, but on steroids. I remember the feeling of helplessness and a strong desire to physically manhandle these interlopers. Who were they to ruin our meticulously laid PR plans?
Fortunately, I showed restraint, even though these were much less perilous times than the present day when any breach of civilized behavior can be captured and digitally shared far and wide. Also, I’m confident that Senator Hart, unlike Mr. Trump, did not give his tacit approval for such behavior.