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Chiara de Blasio and the New Art of Damage Control

Did you miss this fascinating study in pre-emptive damage control last week?

On Christmas Eve, NYC mayor-to-be Bill de Blasio‘s transition team released a candid, one-on-one video in which his daughter Chiara tells of suffering through depression while at college and eventually seeking professional help after self-medicating with alcohol and marijuana.

The clip is a combination PSA/reality TV-style confession produced by the de Blasio family with their own money, and it might raise more questions than it answers.

It’s also a great example of the latest step in the evolution of damage control. We’ll let the elder de Blasio explain in his own words (via Capital New York).

At a press conference yesterday, the Big Apple’s next mayor responded to reporters’ questions about the video, saying:

“I think the video speaks for itself. It says exactly what happened and how it happened.”

Translation: we knew the story would probably leak at some point and we created the video so we could answer questions like these with a simple “just watch it.”

“I have been so gratified particularly by parents who talked about what it meant to them…I am so proud. I know Chirlane feels the same way; we are so proud of our daughter,” he said, explaining that Chiara “wanted to tell her story.”

Translation: Chiara’s personal issues are better “spun”, in her own words, as an inspiring story of recovery than a whisper campaign about the child of a newly prominent politician told by gossip hacks and lame New York Post puns.

“She wanted people to hopefully learn something from it, be inspired by it.”

Translation: This isn’t an attempt to minimize negative publicity as Mr. de Blasio prepares to take office; it’s an act of public service for teenagers and their parents.

Questions remain, but the basic strategy is clear. And we’d like to call it a PR win.

As members of the general public, we have a lot of sympathy for Chiara de Blasio, who continued her charm offensive with a Teen Vogue interview. She’s neither the first college student to struggle with mental health and substance abuse issues or the first to go through the experience in public, but this kind of thing is never pleasant for anyone involved. We also understand that, if the story had been broken by an unfriendly publication, the entire administration wouldn’t have heard the end of it for weeks.

Did de Blasio really think that this story would have affected his ability to do his new job? Did the Christmas Eve announcement come, in part, to downplay reports that the de Blasio campaign’s spokeswoman happens to be dating disgraced former governor Eliot Spitzer?

More importantly, does anyone really care?

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