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The 15-Seconds Blog

  • (Not) Praising Cain

    The Cain campaign gave a tutorial over the weekend on how not to respond to a negative story.

    Politico broke a story which claimed that two women receive financial settlements from the National Restaurant Association (which Herman Cain led in the 1990s) after lodging sexual harassment complaints against the man who is now front-runner among Republican presidential candidates.

    Cain was confronted by a reporter outside CBS News  Sunday (where he had just appeared on Face the Nation) and was asked if he had ever sexually harassed anyone.  Taking a page from another Herman, Pee Wee Herman, and the  “I know you are but what am I?” school of public affairs, Cain responded only by asking the reporter if HE had ever been accused of harassment.

    Things went (further) downhill after that. A Cain spokesman, J.D. Gordon, called in to Geraldo Rivera’s show on Fox News Sunday night. With the host awkwardly holding a cell phone up to his lapel mic to catch the spokesman’s spin, Gordon kept trying to denigrate the story by calling it “thinly sourced” and saying his boss “deserved better.”  Maybe so, but is it true?

    Geraldo tried time-and-again to get an answer to the question of whether there was a cash settlement to no avail.  At one point he told Gordon “What you are doing now is a recipe for disaster, mate.”  You can see the video below.

    Clearly Gordon’s spin wasn’t working.  Today the candidate himself came out and said on several different programs that he had been falsely accused back in the 90’s and that his organization may have made some cash settlements to make the issue go away but that he had never sexually harassed anyone. He said the charges were “totally baseless” and “totally false.”

    We’re betting Cain’s spokesman would have liked to have been armed with those words when he went on “Geraldo at Large” the night before.

    You have to wonder why it took the campaign almost 24 hours to come up with a plausible response. It is not as if they were blindsided by the allegation.  Politico says they had been asking Cain’s people about the charges for several days before publication.

    There are some questions — and some stories which you can finesse your way around.  But this was not one of them.   The only way to deal with these kinds of allegations are to get the facts out instantly.  Cain & company are thin on experience — and the last day has delivered a painful lesson.


  • Bank of America Incense Nonsense

    We’re lovable, dammit!  So says the BoA CEO.  Brian Moynihan, teller-in-chief at the Bank of America, is annoyed at all the ungrateful depositors out there.

    Speaking at a “global town hall meeting” last week, according to Bloomberg News, he told employees the Bank is not getting enough (public) credit:

    “I, like you, get a little incensed when you think about how much good all of you do, whether it’s volunteer hours, charitable giving we do, serving clients and customers well…”

    Someone needs to tell Moynihan that if your customers think you are ripping them off you don’t get points for turning around and giving a portion of that money to charity.

    Adding to the tone deaf lecture, Moynihan had words for the bank’s detractors: 

    “You ought to think a little about that before you start yelling at us,” he yelled. 

    Hopefully, Moynihan is smart enough to understand that he wasn’t just speaking to an internal audience.  Remarks like that were clearly going to reach those who don’t have warm and fuzzy feelings about the bank. Whining about it won’t help.

    The tone of his comments are exactly the kind of elitism on which journalists feed.  Everything an embattled bank CEO says should be part of a carefully orchestrated messaging plan.  Moynihan looks like he was vying for the “BP Tony Hayward Dumb Boss of the Month Award.”


  • The Birther News Blues

    Nearly as bad as saying something dumb to the media on the campaign trail — is saying your were wrong too slowly.

    Governor Rick Perry is on a roll.  Or perhaps it is a roller coaster.  First he scored a cover story in Parade Magazine over the weekend and managed to create some controversy (which is hard to do in a Sunday supplement.)  Right after explaining how he once shot a coyote to save a puppy he had this exchange with a reporter:

    Governor, do you believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States?

    I have no reason to think otherwise. 

    That’s not a definitive, “Yes, I believe he”—

    Well, I don’t have a definitive answer, because he’s never seen my birth certificate. 

    But you’ve seen his.

    I don’t know. Have I?

    You don’t believe what’s been released?

    I don’t know. I had dinner with Donald Trump the other night. 


    That came up. 

    And he said?

    He doesn’t think it’s real. 

    And you said?

    I don’t have any idea. It doesn’t matter. He’s the President of the United States. He’s elected. It’s a distractive issue.

     It is “distractive” alright — but for Perry. 

    The seemingly dead birth certificate issue was all the media wanted to talk to Perry about over the next couple days.  Perry told CNBC’s John Harwood it is just a “good issue to keep alive” adding that he is “not worried about the President’s birth certificate” but that it was “fun” to “poke” him about it.

    When that didn’t go down well, Perry told the St Pete Times that “he has no doubt that Barack Obama was born in the U.S., saying that he was only kidding around when he voiced doubts” earlier.

    In political and other types of communications, you need to decide what your message is and stick to it.  If you stumble and get off message, you don’t want to make a slow retreat.  If Perry had said right off the bat that he didn’t mean to suggest the President’s birth certificate was bogus he would have had a chance to talking about his own qualifications much sooner.