Yesterday was not a good day for presidential spokesperson Scott McLellan. The White House press corps saw to that. Without inserting my own political proclivities on this most challenging PR assignment (for anyone in our line of work), I will say that Mr. McLellan managed to withstand — for better or worse — the pounding by the media seeking to reconcile his apparent contradiction over what Karl Rove did or didn’t do.
I remember several years ago, the Council of PR Firms invited former White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer to an industry luncheon (ostensibly to promote his new book). When he finished with his prepared remarks, the floor was opened for questions. I was tempted to ask Ari how he was able to stay on message when the message he was directed to give might make him internally, if not ethically conflicted.
I held my tongue, but I will say that in the agency world, if a client were to direct his agency to mislead or lie, it would be sufficient cause to terminate the relationship…no matter how lucrative or high profile the assignment.
Taking a page out of the crisis management handbook, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, said: “The lesson of history for George Bush and Karl Rove is that the best way to help themselves is to bring out all the facts, on their own, quickly.”