Mike Paul, The Reputation Doctor’s, Top 10 List of Reputations In Crisis For The Year 2011!
It’s back! Each year, I put together my list of the top 10 reputations in crisis for the year and the following is the official Reputation Doctor’s Annual Top 10 List of Reputations in Crisis for 2011. This list is compiled by and solely the opinion of top crisis public relations and reputation management expert, Mike Paul, known globally as The Reputation Doctor®.
10. Bank of America Debit Card Fiasco
Bank of America thought raising debit card fees in a recession was a wise idea. Protests like Occupy Wall Street and the power of social media as a tool for upset customers proved otherwise. All of those in leadership who approved this unwise idea should be fired for forgetting the golden rule of business: the customer is always right! Here is what Bank of America said when they finally changed their mind under duress: “We have listened to our customers very closely over the last few weeks and recognize their concern with our proposed debit usage fee,” said David Darnell, co-chief operating officer. “Our customers’ voices are most important to us. As a result, we are not currently charging the fee and will not be moving forward with any additional plans to do so.” Sadly, as Bank of America said in their own words above, it took weeks to make this decision! In the court of public opinion today, an hour is a lifetime! A few weeks is a century! As a result, Bank of America made it to my top 10 reputations in crisis list.
9. News of the World/News Corp. Phone-Hacking Scandal
News of the World was a national Sunday tabloid newspaper published in the UK, famed for celebrity scoops – selling an average of 2.8 million copies. Its fondness for sex scandals gained it the nickname “News of the Screws”. From 2006, allegations of phone hacking began to engulf the newspaper. These culminated in the revelation on July 4, 2011 that, nearly a decade earlier, a private investigator hired by the newspaper had intercepted and deleted the voicemail of missing British teenager Milly Dowler, who was later found murdered. Amid a public backlash and the withdrawal of advertising, News International, a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., announced the closure of the newspaper mid July 2011. The final edition signed off with headline “Thank you and goodbye” and included an apology.
In my opinion, News Corp., the Murdochs and other newspaper officials handled this crisis very poorly with incomplete answers and apologies which most felt were not heart-felt. Most believed they were more sorry for getting caught than for the damage they caused to many lives and reputations. The liberal media will continue covering the details on the more conservative media house of News Corp. until the last drop of blood is drained. The crisis continues as the legal process drags on and the court of public opinion continues to hound them. Look for the crisis to continue with more details into 2012.
8. Herman Cain
Herman Cain, was perhaps the least likely to rise to the top of the Republican pack in the Presidential campaign. A former pizza executive with no political experience, little campaign organization to speak of, and a schedule tailored more to selling books than winning votes, was forced to “suspend” his campaign. The accusations of sexual misconduct rocked the campaign of a candidate who professed to be a devout Christian and family man. And some of the details were graphic.
During his campaign, four different women accused him of sexual harassment over the years. From the moment the harassment accusations were revealed, Mr. Cain proclaimed his innocence and began to cast blame for what he called a smear campaign. Then, a fifth woman, Ginger White, came forward, saying she and Mr. Cain had only recently ended a 13-year extramarital affair. Shortly after, Cain “suspended” his campaign for president.
Cain was also featured in Barbara Walters’ “10 Most Fascinating People” special. He revealed to the legendary interviewer that he has “been doing my homework” after being mocked for mispronouncing Uzbekistan, and that he would like to be considered for Secretary of Defense now that he is no longer in the presidential race. “I believe that in the court of public opinion I have not been treated fairly,” he said. “Because the accusations were false, but they continued to be spun as if they were true.”
Give me a break! In my opinion, Cain lies like a rug, would have never beat President Obama and was an embarrassing sideshow, which was comical to watch! He is now positioned as the Black Republican candidate who went down in flames over many claims of sexual harassment. He embarrassed himself, his family and most importantly, his wife with an alleged 13-year affair. Look for him to be an active talking head in the news during the remainder of the Presidential campaign. He just won’t shut up.
7. Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK)
On May 14, 2011, a 32 year old maid, Nafissatou Diallo, at the Sofitel New York Hotel alleged that Dominique Strauss-Kahn had sexually assaulted her after she entered his suite. Strauss-Kahn was formally indicted on May 18th and was granted $1 million bail, plus a $5 million bond, the following day. He was ordered to remain confined to a New York apartment under guard. A semen sample was found on the maid’s shirt, and on May 24th it was reported that DNA tests showed a match to a DNA sample submitted by Strauss-Kahn. He was arraigned on June 6, 2011, and pled not guilty. On June 30, 2011, the New York Times reported that the case was on the “verge of collapse” because of problems with the credibility of the alleged victim, who had, according to sources within the NYPD, repeatedly lied to the police since making her first statement. According to prosecutors, the accuser admitted that she lied to a grand jury about the events surrounding the alleged attack. Diallo claims that the translator on June 28, 2011, misunderstood her words. Strauss-Khan was released from house arrest on 1 July.
After completing a lengthy investigation, prosecutors filed a motion to drop all charges against Strauss-Kahn, stating that they were not convinced of his culpability beyond a reasonable doubt due to serious issues in the complainant’s credibility and inconclusive physical evidence, and therefore could not ask a jury to believe in it. The motion was granted by Judge Obus in a hearing on August 23, 2011. In a TV interview in September, Strauss-Kahn admitted that his sexual encounter with the maid was “a moral fault” and described it as “inappropriate” but that it “did not involve violence, constraint or aggression.”
As a result of his behavior, Dominique Strauss-Kahn lost his powerful position at the IMF and his bid to run for the presidency of France also went up in flames. He also acquired the nickname DSK in the tabloids and he will forever be known as the ultimate dirty old French man by Americans. DSK continues to have both legal and reputational trouble in Europe today because of other lawsuits regarding his sexual prowess. DSK’s legal case is an important lesson for all. The court of law is very important, however, the court of public opinion is equally as important, as it is where all of our reputations reside. Why? Because our reputations are everything!
6. Michael Jackson’s Doctor, Conrad Murray
Michael Jackson’s personal physician Conrad Murray (born February 19, 1953, in St. Andrews, Grenada) was charged with involuntary manslaughter of Jackson. The trial, which started on September 27, 2011, was held in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County in Los Angeles, California, before Judge Michael Pastor.
The prosecutors in the case told jurors that “misplaced trust in the hands of Murray cost Jackson his life.” Murray’s defense counsel claimed Jackson, who was tired and under pressure from rehearsing, took eight tablets of Lorazepam, a sedative. “When Dr. Murray left the room, Jackson self-administered a dose of Propofal that, with the Lorazepam, created a perfect storm in his body that killed him instantly. The whole thing is tragic, but the evidence is not that Dr. Murray did it,” Murray’s attorney said.
Testimony during the trial showed that Murray had stayed with Jackson at least six nights a week and was regularly asked — and sometimes begged — by the insomniac singer to give him drugs powerful enough to put him to sleep. Jackson, Murray told authorities, was especially eager to be administered Propofol, a surgical anesthetic that put him to sleep when other powerful sedatives could not. Testimony indicated that Propofol, in conjunction with other drugs in the singer’s system, had played the key role in his death on June 25, 2009. In November 2011, the jury found Murray guilty after about eight hours of deliberation, and he was sentenced to four years in prison.
Dr. Murray’s reputation is now mud worldwide because of his crimes against the King of Pop and the strength of the Michael Jackson reputation and brand worldwide and those who miss him dearly. He will forever be known as the doctor who killed Michael Jackson, which is not exactly the reputation any doctor wants to have. When he is released from prison he will obviously need to find himself a new career!
5. Charlie Sheen
Carlos Irwin Estevez, better known by his stage name Charlie Sheen, is a film and television actor. He is the youngest son of actor Martin Sheen. In 2010, Sheen was the highest paid actor on television, earning $1.8 million per episode of Two and a Half Men.
Sheen’s troubled personal life made major headlines in 2011, including reports about alcohol and drug abuse and marital problems as well as allegations of domestic violence. He was fired from his role on Two and a Half Men by CBS and Warner Bros. on March 7, 2011. Sheen subsequently announced a nationwide tour.
The one-liners from Sheen’s tour and crisis alone will go down in history as cultural milestones. His personal life might not have changed so much, but his career has bounced back already with him signing another big contact for an upcoming TV show. Remember, the root of Charlie’s crisis was not his acting ability. The root of his crisis was his behavior off the set! Let’s hope he has really cleaned himself up from his boozing and drugging or, sadly, we’ll see him on my list again. And instead of saying winning, others will be calling him loser!
4. Anthony Weiner
On May 27, 2011, Congressman Anthony Weiner sent a link to a sexually suggestive photograph of himself via his public Twitter account to a young woman who was following him on Twitter. After several days of denying he posted the image, Weiner held a press conference at which he admitted he had, “exchanged messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years.” He apologized for his earlier denials. After an explicit photo was leaked through the The Opie & Anthony Show, Weiner announced on June 16, 2011, that he would resign from Congress, and he formally resigned on June 21st. In the special election held on September 13 to replace him, Republican businessman Bob Turner defeated the Democratic candidate, state assemblyman David Weprin, to fill Weiner’s seat. Prior to the crisis, Weiner was considered among the front-runners to become the next mayor of New York City.
Weiner was the top story in the news for many weeks and his reputation crisis taught us all a lesson about tweeting and photos, especially as an elected official! Don’t tweet nude or lewd photos of yourself over the Internet, which is to the world! As a result, the former U.S. Congressman has made my list as #4 of the top 10 reputations in crisis for 2011.
3. Wall Street and Big Business
Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is a protest movement which began September 17, 2011 in Zuccotti Park, located in New York City’s Wall Street financial district, which was initiated by the Canadian activist group Adbusters. The protests are against social and economic inequality, high unemployment, greed, as well as corruption, and the undue influence of corporations — particularly from the financial services sector — on government. The protesters’ slogan, “We are the 99%,” refers to the growing income and wealth inequality in the U.S. between the wealthiest 1% and the rest of the population. The protests in New York City have sparked similar protests and movements around the world. The honor of Time magazine’s 2011 “Person of the Year” goes to “the protester” — from the demonstrators across the Arab world to the Occupy Wall Street movement that continues to make headlines.
In my opinion, the protests led by Occupy Wall Street, which spread across the U.S., damaged the reputation of big business in America and changed grassroots protesting forever. The change will impact not only American protests, but protests worldwide. Social media demonstrated how powerful a tool it can be to lend a hand to the voice of the oppressed. With the example of Bank of America and others, big business is now more concerned than ever about the voice of the 99%. Wall Street and big business realize they truly are the top 1% and will be held accountable in a much more direct way in the future. Transparency reigns supreme on Wall Street and big business and they will continue to face tremendous accountability for unfair, unjust, as well as, fraudulent and illegal business practices.
2. Penn State and Syracuse University
The Penn State sex abuse scandal refers to allegations that former Pennsylvania State University football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky sexually assaulted or had inappropriate contact with at least eight underage boys on or near university property. After an extensive grand jury investigation, Sandusky was indicted on 42 counts of child molestation dating from 1994 to 2009, though the abuse may date as far back as the 1970s. In 2011, per the findings of the investigation, several high-level school officials were charged with perjury, suspended, or dismissed for allegedly covering up the incidents or failing to notify authorities. In the wake of the scandal, head football coach Joe Paterno was dismissed from his position and university president Graham Spanier was forced to resign. Sandusky has denied the allegations.
In November 2011, in the wake of the Penn State sex abuse scandal, two former Syracuse University ball boys alleged on ESPN’s Outside the Lines program that they had been molested by Syracuse University’s assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine from the late 1970s to the 1990s. Fine and head men’s basketball coach Boeheim denied the charges. Because the incidents occurred over 10 years ago, District Attorney William Fitzpatrick indicated that the statute of limitations would probably bar any prosecution. And it has, thus far. Syracuse University placed Fine on administrative leave and said it would cooperate fully with the investigation. Subsequently, another person claimed to have been molested by Fine in 2002 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The United States Secret Service searched Fine’s house and seized file cabinets, computers, and other potential evidence. On November 27, 2011, it was announced that Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor had fired Fine in response to the allegations. Cantor said she made her decision after ESPN released a tape of a 2002 phone conversation between one of the former ballboys, Bobby Davis, and Fine’s wife Laurie. In the tape, Laurie said she knew about her husband’s behavior, but felt powerless to stop it. In response to a USA Today editorial calling for an explanation for why it kept Fine on the job in 2005, Cantor said that had Syracuse known about the tape at any point prior to November 27, Fine would have been fired on the spot. Give me a break!
Although I know Penn State and Syracuse University are not the exact same crises, nor the same universities, the similarities are too daunting. Both crises involve alleged sexual abuse by assistant coaches at two powerful universities known to many first as “sports schools” and followed by their academic achievements.
Full disclosure: I am doing some pro bono litigation-support PR, reputation counseling and reputation repair work for the survivors of both universities’ sexual abuse cases. My goal is to speak publicly for them and help share their stories with the world to give them the proper opportunity to face their pain, begin the healing process and help others who have been sexually abused to have the courage to come forward.
Both former assistant coach Fine and former assistant coach Sandusky deserve to have their cases heard in the court of law. They also deserve to have darkness become light surrounding their alleged crimes against innocent boys, who are now survivors of sexual abuse. If these coaches truly raped or abused these young innocent boys, they will need to pray for God’s forgiveness because if found guilty, they will be among the most hated men in the world for the rest of their lives. Their wives have an opportunity to do the right thing and tell the truth to help their own reputations, but mainly to help those abused by remaining silent all these years. And as I have said publicly many times, the board of trustees at both universities need to step down or be forced to step down. This all happened on their watch and they need to be fired! Both universities and their assistant coaches share the #2 spot in my list of the top 10 reputations in crisis for 2011.
1. Casey Anthony
Caylee Marie Anthony (August 9, 2005 – indeterminate ca. June 2008) was a two-year-old girl who was reported missing in Orlando, Florida, in July 2008, and whose remains were found in a wooded area near her home in December 2008. Her then 22-year-old mother, Casey Marie Anthony, was tried for the first degree murder of Caylee but was acquitted. She was, however, convicted of misdemeanor counts of lying to police officers.
Caylee lived with her mother, Casey, and her maternal grandparents, George and Cindy Anthony. On July 15, 2008, Caylee was reported missing with a phone call to 9-1-1 by Cindy, who said she had not seen Caylee for 31 days and that Casey’s car smelled like a dead body had been inside of it. She said Casey had given varied explanations as to Caylee’s whereabouts and finally admitted that day that she had not seen her daughter for weeks. Casey fabricated various stories, including telling detectives the child had been kidnapped by a fictitious nanny on June 9, and that she had been trying to find her, too frightened to alert the authorities. With the child still missing, Casey was charged with first degree murder in October and pled not guilty. On December 11, Caylee’s skeletal remains were found with a blanket inside a trash bag in a wooded area near the family home. Investigative reports and trial testimony altered between duct tape being found near the front of the skull and on the mouth of the skull. The medical examiner mentioned duct tape as one reason she ruled the death a homicide, but officially listed it as “death by undetermined means”.
The trial lasted six weeks, from May to July 2011. The prosecution sought the death penalty and alleged Casey murdered her daughter by administering chloroform, then applying duct tape, because she wanted her freedom. The defense team, led by Jose Baez, countered that the child had drowned accidentally in the family’s swimming pool on June 16, 2008, and that Casey lied about this and other issues because of a dysfunctional upbringing, which they said included sexual abuse by her father. The defense did not present evidence as to how Caylee died, nor evidence that Casey was sexually abused as a child, but challenged every piece of the prosecution’s evidence, calling much of it “fantasy forensics”. Casey did not testify during the trial.
On July 5, the jury found Casey not guilty of first degree murder, aggravated child abuse, and aggravated manslaughter of a child, but guilty of four misdemeanor counts of providing false information to a law enforcement officer. With credit for time served, she was released on July 17. The verdict was greeted with public outrage, and was both attacked and defended by media and legal commentators. Some complained that the jury misunderstood the meaning of reasonable doubt, while others said the prosecution relied too heavily on the defendant’s allegedly poor moral character because they had been unable to show conclusively how the victim had died. Time magazine described the case as “the social media trial of the century.”
Let’s peel back more on Casey’s character and her reputation. During the months that passed between Caylee last being seen alive and her grandparents calling the police, Anthony enjoyed wild parties joining friends on nights out to local bars and clubs. On June 20, four days after Caylee drowned, Anthony went to Fusion, a restaurant and nightclub in Orlando, dressed up in a clinging blue knit dress. She was in a Hot Body contest. She was partying and having a good time, drinking, dancing, and to many people, simply a party girl! Not at all seen as a grieving mother who just suffered the death of her 2-year old daughter.
In a national survey seeking to know who was the most hated person in America, Casey Anthony took the prize! In the survey 94% of those who said they knew her, greatly disliked her. As we focus on the story of Casey Anthony, let us not forget the short life of her lovely daughter, Caylee Anthony. Caylee did not deserve to die like this. She was an innocent baby that had a mother who did not appropriately care for her and many people think much worse. Many believe that Casey, got away with murdering her baby daughter, Caylee. May we all say a prayer for young Caylee today and vow that her death will not be in vain. RIP little Caylee. We take solace in knowing you are in a better place. A place called heaven.
Remember, do the right thing when your reputation is in crisis and seek the counsel of an experienced reputation management expert. It will be a major challenge, but ultimately the rewards of repairing your reputation will be great. Why? Because Your Reputation Is Everything!™