Sunday, August 24, 2008

Edwards' Disappointing PR Strategy

So it turns out John Edwards did cheat on wife Elizabeth, the brave cancer victim he didn’t mind parading across the country mid-chemo treatment during his run for president.

Seems The National Enquirer, which broke the story last October, should be vindicated and celebrated for its intrepid reporting, but no, the rag took it on the chin by mainstream media outlets. CNN, ABC and others failed to adequately give National Enquirer its due and instead snickered at the grocery store weekly for its suggestion that Edwards actually fathered the child.

And why shouldn’t CNN, ABC and others take him at his word? It’s not like he lied about this before?

I say well-done National Enquirer (makes you wonder what else the paper got right—does Oprah get her weight loss ideas from aliens after all?); mainstream press should congratulate the rag and now concentrate on the real story: did Edwards’ use campaign cash to shut up his mistress, Reille Hunter?

Edwards’ PR plan of attack, from October until now, was deny ‘til you die (Elizabeth, by the way, was complicit in the deceit). A former FOX News staffer speculated Friday that Edwards appeared on Nightline because a news outlet was readying a bombshell story that would prove his guilt—or perhaps Hunter was taking it public.

I think he wanted to take control of the story; that is some aggressive PR. Go on Nightline, tell the public how much you love your wife and what a terrible mistake it was; then deny the child is yours and that you gave your mistress hush money. The news lead becomes: “John Edwards admitted and apologized to having an affair, but denied fathering a child with his mistress …”

Bam! He seized the story.

Great timing for that announcement, by the way; it coincided with opening ceremonies of the much ballyhooed Olympics. Everyone’s talking about the games, China and who will take home gold. Not to mention Nightline is an ABC program, not NBC—home to the Olympics—the station everyone will watch over the next two weeks. By giving ABC exclusive rights to the story NBC news won’t have a chance to drop its own bomb.

What Edwards had to pray for—and he sure claims he’s praying—is early Olympic gold for the Americans. Get the limping country whooped up about its athletic prowess and come Monday everyone in America is chanting “U-S-A” and not burning effigies of John Edwards.

Sure enough, the women’s fencing team pulled through for Edwards, capturing gold on Saturday. The American weekend breaks with news that … we already won gold! It’s going to be a great two weeks. Maybe, just maybe an influx of gold to the nation will help stabilize the housing market.

Now that’s some deft PR on Edwards' part, although it’s probably too little, too late.

But let’s now forget about Andrew Young, Edwards’ top adviser who claims he fathered the love child. Never mind Young has a wife of his own and, if it’s true, the Edwards campaign is less champion of the common folk and more like the cast of “Swingtown.”

If the child isn’t his then Young actually made the best career move anyone in Washington ever has; his peers are green with envy; Capitol Hill interns are taking notes. Young fell on his sword and told the public: “It’s not my boss who fathered this child out of wedlock, but me, I am to blame.”

That’s hara-kiri of the highest (actually lowest) sort. Politicians coast to coast (as well French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Russian leader Vladimir Putin) were on the phone Saturday morning offering this guy a job.

Despite the last-minute PR trick, Edwards killed his political career; Young pushed his adviser credentials into hyper drive. And the US Olympics fencing team, unbeknownst to them, gave this story its pretty little bow. The whole thing is pure gold.

This post is courtesy of PR Junkie

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