Howard Kurtz makes a great point in his latest Daily Beast piece on Herman Cain and his attorney Lin Wood by asking if Wood was asleep during the Clinton Administration.
Kurtz made the quip after reading a statement released by Wood in response to another allegation of sexual harassment:
“This appears to be an accusation of private, alleged consensual conduct between adults – a subject matter which is not a proper subject of inquiry by the media or the public. No individual, whether a private citizen, a candidate for public office or a public official, should be questioned about his or her private sexual life,” Wood said.
Kurtz is right and I’ll go further. Wood, who has experience with suing media companies, doesn’t seem to understand basic media relations AND political history. It’s naive to suggest a candidate’s sex life is off limits but it also invites MORE questions and coverage when an attorney tries to lecture the media about what is and what isn’t a “proper” subject of inquiry.
Whether Wood issued this statement himself or got outside PR help is unclear but the statement doesn’t work.
Attorneys should stick to what they do best: practicing law. The job of drafting a press statement on behalf of a client (particularly those in crisis mode) should be left to experienced PR professionals who understand how the media operates. The attorney should review the statement to make sure it does not jeopardize the legal strategy but should also read it to see how it can HELP his or her client’s reputation.
Too many defense lawyers get nervous at the mere mention of putting out a statement. So they say, “we’ll argue this in court and not the courthouse steps.” It says nothing and does nothing to help a client’s legal case or reputation.
When a client is in a serious crisis as Herman Cain is, then it makes sense to issue statements that can contain the damage from rumors and false allegations that are sure to end up in print, broadcast and online. These statements need to support the legal strategy (often more long term) for sure but it’s often more important for the statement to defend the client’s reputation ASAP.
If attorneys are truly concerned about advocating for their clients, then they would treat the use of public relations professionals to help influence the court of public opinion with the same respect they give to retaining expert witnesses to win in the court of law.
Finally, for Lin Wood, here’s a list of political sex scandals covered by the media.