Lessons in Crisis Communication: The Sanford Affair

I think it goes without saying that Mark Sanford has screwed up. Now what?

A crisis communication specialist was on NPR on Thursday (before the Jackson news moved) to talk about how Sanford had handled the situation so far.  His advice to politicians who find themselves in situations like this:  drag the wife out, issue a short, simple statement and then don’t take questions.

I disagree with the first part and totally agree with the second and third.

Don’t drag the wife out. She’s been humiliated enough. In fact, I think most women feel a visceral disgust when they see powerful men screw up and make their poor wife stand next to them. The expression on Silda Spitzer’s face is seared on my brain and it will always make me think a bit less of the former governor.

But not taking questions is really great advice. The pro’s rationale was that there is really no good answer you can give to the questions that are going to be asked. Give a simple, to-the-point statement (which Sanford didn’t) and then get off the stage.

And now he really needs to stop talking. He held a televised (?!) meeting with his Cabinet today to apologize to them. Um, seriously? Take advantage of the Jackson tragedy and disappear. Honestly I don’t think there is anything this guy can say or do now to make his situation any better — his national ambitions are toast and he’ll be lucky to hold onto his current job. But continuing to talk can only make his situation worse. Keep quiet, fix your marriage and hope that American’s attention spans really are as short as we are always told they are.