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Scandal

Pat O’Brien Tells How to Survive a Public Scandal: Admit, Apologize, Advance

Pat O'BrienGiven their recent cringe-worthy non-apologies, perhaps Serena Williams and Paula Deen can learn something about handling public scandals from Pat O’Brien, co-host of Fox Sports Primetime.

O’Brien suffered his share of embarrassment back in 2005, when the drunken voice-mail messages he left a woman were leaked onto the Internet. Now, he’s more than willing to dish out some advice on how to rebound.

“I say this all the time: the best way to handle if you did something is to admit it. Cover-ups always worsen the crime. And we’re talking about low-level scandals here, obviously, not murder or anything. I always say the three A’s: admit, apologize, advance,” he told Mediabistro for its So What Do You Do? interview. “I talk to a lot of people in trouble — politicians, celebrities — they will call me and ask what to do. And that’s what I tell them. Get in front of the first camera you can find and admit it if you did it. And apologize to somebody and move on.”

For the full interview, read So What Do You Do, Pat O’Brien, Co-Host of Fox Sports Primetime?

 

For Amy’s Baking Company in Scottsdale, the Plot Thickens, Along with the Frozen Ravioli

It seems the only people who can upstage their own bizarre antics are the ones who initially staged them. It turns out that infamous reality TV food show couple Amy and Samy Bouzaglos, co-owners of Amy’s Baking Company (aka ABC Bistro), have both served time in prison for different offenses. Their restaurant, the subject of a surreal episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares show, recently reopened amid ongoing controversy, with curiosity seekers as patrons and full waitstaff turnover.

It’s been nearly three weeks since the meltdown during the show, where the owners exhibited such severe dysfunction that the celebrity chef threw in the towel. The couple fought with each other and with patrons, denied the waiters’ tips, and fired a waitress on the spot. They also provided slow service and offered questionable ingredients, such as frozen ravioli. But that didn’t stop the owners from acting out further. In response to rampant social media criticism, the couple responded with profanity laced tirades, and later said their social media accounts were hacked.

Now the twists in the tale continue. The restaurant recently re-opened, but they haven’t been able to retain any employees. There have been so many gawkers and reporters attempting to gain access that the couple have hired security guards. According to the Arizona Republic, Amy has served time in prison for misusing a social security number when she applied for a bank loan. Samy may be deported after covering up a past history involving drug distribution in Europe.

Samy, an Israeli citizen born in Morocco, recently had an immigration court hearing, continuing a removal process lasting more than two years. He is under ICE investigation for failing to disclose his past history involving drug distribution, threats and extortion on his U.S. immigration petition. International records show he’d served time in prison and is banned from entering France and Germany.

This PRNewser contributor paid a brief visit to the scene of the action in Scottsdale this past Sunday, while spending Memorial Day weekend nearby. After all, one of Samy’s posts urged people to “come to Arizona”, and here’s what we found. The bistro is located in a shopping area in a residential section of Scottsdale. The temperature neared 100 degrees. It was midday and the restaurant wasn’t open yet, so there were no guards on the premises. Still the signs in the window and other passers-by provided clues.

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Exxon Hates Journalists, Loves Paper Towels

Let’s play make believe: Imagine you’re a massive energy company facing a big PR headache over an oil spill caused by a broken pipeline right in the middle of Arkansas. Now imagine that you really, really don’t want everyone in the country to know about the terrible accident and your response to it.

What do you do? You convince law enforcement to threaten the journalists trying to cover your story with arrest and push your top lobbyist to call them liars!

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NYPD Tells Cops: Don’t Post Racist Tweets, Please

Here’s a painfully simple lesson to stop an HR problem from becoming a big PR problem: discourage your employees from using their personal Twitter accounts to share their horribly racist opinions with the rest of the world.

To readers who don’t live in New York and may have missed the story, two Fire Department employees (one of whom happens to be the commissioner’s son) got some justifiably bad press for posting racist statements on their feeds. The first guy’s tweets included some slurs we’ve never even heard of as well as this infamous statement:

“I like jews about as much as hitler. #toofar? NOPE.”

Clever! The commish’s son later “chose to retire” from the force while the second offender got suspended without pay after being “outed” by the New York Post. Of course the NYPD would rather avoid the NYFD’s self-inflicted PR headache, so this week the organization released its first set of strict social media guidelines.

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Horse Meat Scandal Touches IKEA’s Meatballs

Today everyone’s favorite paperboard furniture provider IKEA announced plans to remove its famous Swedish meatballs from the menu at every in-store cafeteria in 21 European countries after confirming that Czech food inspectors had found “traces of horse” in those round, sauce-covered meat globes. Now we have a few questions:

  • Is any company safe at this point?
  • Will this scandal convince Europeans to re-examine their relationship with red meat and enact stricter regulations on those companies that include it in their products? (You really don’t know what you could be eating in most cases.)
  • Did you know that horse meat is supposedly “leaner” and “sweeter” than cow meat and that it contains twice the Iron and three times the essential omega fatty acids? Doesn’t it feel kind of strange to consider that information?
  • Finally, what good is an IKEA with no meatballs anyway?

 

Bribes, Blockades and Blackmail: Inside China’s ‘Black PR’ Industry

Bo XilaiWe all know that public relations can get a little…insane at times. Bad behavior, lawsuits, internal leaks…we’ve got it all, right? Sure we do–but when it comes to crazy we can’t even compete with China. A “shocking expose” first reported by the People’s Republic’s Caixin magazine and translated by the Tech in Asia blog reveals a seedy PR underworld in which firms earn millions every year on the strength of bribery and blackmail–all committed in the name of media relations and reputation management.

The primary players in this sordid saga are two firms called Yage Times and XinXun Media. What did these firms do, exactly? They specialized in getting negative news stories about clients removed from prominent websites–but it all goes much deeper than that.

Not only would these companies bribe site runners to delete “unflattering” posts–they also paid their friends in IT to have related search terms blocked on Baidu, the Chinese equivalent of Google. Imagine entering “Beyoncé lip sync” or “Burger King horse meat” into your browser and coming up with a big fat nothing and you’ll get the general idea.

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Media Relations Fail: FBI Embroiled in ‘Sexting’ Scandal

Someone did NOT take the Obama administration’s “No leaks, ever” advice to heart: an internal FBI report that somehow found its way to (we assume) the desk of Wolf Blitzer‘s intern at CNN urged employees to stop using government-issued devices to “send lurid texts and nude photos” to one another. Little did the genius who issued this memo realize that it would only serve to turn the bureau’s “rash of sexting” into a big headache. (And no, we really don’t think this was a PR stunt.)

Media Relations 101: if one of your employees “used (a) personal cell phone to send nude photographs of herself to other employees”, a second sent a “nude photograph of herself to ex-boyfriend’s wife” and a third  “was caught in a child pornography sting operation”, you really don’t want this information to find its way to anyone in the press. In fact, you shouldn’t even put it on paper–real or virtual.

Why would anyone inside the FBI want to leak this info in the first place?

Gay Blackmail and Scandal at the Vatican!

The VaticanWe knew Ratzinger’s retirement was a little weird! Today’s most interesting story comes to us by way of an Italian paper which claims that Pope Benedict XVI decided to step down and abandon his Twitter feed after receiving a 300-page “bound in red” dossier from the team of cardinals he delegated to investigate Vatileaks, the church’s worst “seriously, the butler did it” PR scandal in years.

The dossier supposedly revealed that a number of prelates within the Vatican, united by the fact that they all happen to be gay, have been blackmailed by “laymen with whom they had links of a ‘worldly nature’” and that “Everything revolves around the non-observance of the sixth and seventh commandments” (the ones that say “don’t steal or commit adultery”). The idea here is that, if the prelates didn’t do whatever these third parties wanted them to do, their covert Gay Mafia would be revealed to the public. And Benedict resigned in order to avoid doing more damage to the church’s reputation.

Juicy! Here’s the kicker: the Vatican “refuses to confirm or deny” the report. Its PR man says that “We shall not be following up on the observations that are made about this”.

On the one hand, we want to congratulate these guys for not following the Lance Armstrong “lie and deny” damage control strategy. On the other hand, “no comment” doesn’t really resolve anything. And we know how much the public loves to speculate…

Most importantly, we can’t wait for Dan Brown to tell us what this all means.

Burger King Admits That Its Sandwiches May Contain Delicious Pony Meat

Saddle up for the week’s biggest PR fail: Burger King, a chain long known for its absolutely positively top-notch ingredients, finally admitted that some of its UK sandwiches might just happen to contain traces of horse meat (hey, at least this guy died in ignorant bliss).

After reports surfaced of a top supplier selling beef products packed with pony flesh, Burger King quickly dropped the suspect firm while simultaneously issuing ‘absolute assurances’ (aka denials) that any of its trademark Whoppers could be tainted by even the tiniest bits of the mares in question.

After performing DNA tests of samples taken from a single production plant, the company released a statement confirming that they showed “the presence of very small trace levels of equine DNA”. Now other top meat-oriented companies are taking pains to distance themselves from Silvercrest, an Irish distributor which for some time apparently included “meat off-cuts, including horse…imported in large frozen blocks from Poland” in its shipments to big UK brands like BK and the supermarket Tesco.

Now come charges of a deep-reaching cover up as Burger King races to preserve business as usual at its 500 UK locations. A spokesperson for a British food safety advocacy group called the company’s response “very shabby”, noting that “It really is not the open, honest and transparent way that we expect a major food company to treat its customers.”

Come on, guys. Didn’t Lance Armstrong teach us that vigorous denials only make the guilty look worse in retrospect?

And now for the requisite grossout joke: Next time we’re in London we’ll make sure not to order the “foal and chips.” Ugh…

Katie Couric Scores Manti Te’o Interview (They Share a Publicist, BTW)

Katie Couric Manti Te'o InterviewSo Manti Te’o, who most Americans believe to be a big old liar, visited Katie Couric‘s office for his first official post-scandal interview, set to air tomorrow. While we’re interested in the fact that he admitted to “briefly” lying about the fake dead girlfriend hoax for six weeks after learning that he’d been duped (yeah right), we’d like to examine the “Inside PR” aspects of the story.

We love Katie and all, but no one would call her a sports journalist–and we don’t feel like the scandal is quite big enough to justify a trip to Oprah-land (though the Te’o family apparently considered Oprah and Dr. Phil before settling for Couric). So how did she score this top interview? Well, the fact that the two parties share a publicist certainly didn’t hurt. That’s right–Matthew Hiltzik of Hiltzik Strategies (MediaBeat interview after the jump) now performs crisis comms/damage control duties for both Couric and Te’o, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Te’o chose Couric over both Oprah and ESPN.

Is this standard operating procedure? Or does it raise even more questions about the players involved in this sordid tale?

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