My graduate course in crisis management was the 2012 Republican presidential primaries as a senior advisory and national media surrogate for Newt Gingrich. Not only did I survive the week leading up to the South Carolina primary, but my sister Kathy and I were both commended by several national press correspondents on election night, before the returns came in, for our highly professional and highly effective week in crisis communications. We won the South Carolina primary.
You have to personally live through a media firestorm to fully appreciate it. I have, and I do. What I learned is that the only way to successfully navigate the firestorm is to be truthful, credible, knowledgeable and available to the media. The White House is in the middle of several firestorms.
The three firestorms are the administration's communications subsequent to the attack in Benghazi last fall, the IRS targeting of conservative groups and the Justice Department's seizure of Associated Press staff phone records without notice.
President Obama weighed in on Benghazi this past Monday during a press conference, stating, "The day after it happened, I acknowledged that it was an act of terrorism."
The next day, Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post gave Obama's comment four Pinocchios. Not truthful. Obama also noted at the same press conference that "there's no there there" regarding Benghazi. Not credible.
Regarding the IRS targeting conservative groups, Obama at the same press conference Monday noted that he found out about the IRS actions Friday, May 10. Former IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman and Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller learned about the program in May 2012. Not knowledgeable.
The Justice Department has stood by its seizure of the Associated Press' phone records, asserting that it did everything else it could and referring to an inability to comment in detail due to an ongoing investigation. Attorney General Eric Holder recused himself from the investigation, which is being run by Deputy Attorney General James Cole.
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