The St. Louis Post-Dispatch today dropped syndicated Washington Post columnist George Will to protest his June 5 piece that dismissed as overblown complaints about rape and sexual assault on college campuses.
Will wrote that rape victims get a "coveted status" on campuses and that some claims of rate are "delusional."
Tony Messenger, editorial page editor of the P-D, penned a note to readers saying Michael Gerson, another Post columnist and St. Louis native, is replacing Will each Thursday and Sunday.
The former aide to George W. Bush, speechwriter for Bob Dole/Jack Kemp and senior editor at US News & World Report has a "compassionate conservatism" position that will "connect with our readers, regardless of their political bent," according to Messenger.
Messenger noted a change in columns had been under consideration for months, but Will’s Jun 5 piece made the decision easier.
"The column was offensive and inaccurate; we apologize for publishing it," he wrote.
The National Organization for Women and others are lobbying the Washington Post to drop Will. Post editor Fred Hiatt said the controversial column was "well within bounds of legitimate debate."
Ronald N. Levy (Jun. 23, 2014): Should we work for unpopular accounts?
An advantage of reading O'Dwyer publications is that you get information, some of which may make you make you more interesting and valuable to management, that may not appear in media beholden to large associations. Similarly, an advantage to the public of
disseminating information for unpopular accounts is that the public gets information not available elsewhere.
Like is it more fair for Americans to kill Afghans and Iraqis in their countries than it would be for foreign countries to kill Americans in America? Have we intentionally killed hundreds of thousands in North Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan to benefit those countries or is there some other purpose?
If you share Joe Honick's view that one who works on PR for Russia is a "mouthpiece" for that country, then I was a mouthpiece for many years. The message was that our countries were important allies when Hitler tried to kill people in both our countries and did in fact kill 30 million Russians. Also that the real world is not like a wrestling match of heroes and villains but is a place where people disagree and should try to do that peacefully.
You can see the need for helping unpopular accounts when you look at the problem of Americans who are accused (sometimes falsely)of rape.
Five prisoners were recently released after 24 years in prison, and paid millions of dollars (which did not give them back the 24 years)
because the government admitted that government people had framed those five black men who had no money for PR and skilled lawyers to make clear the truth.
Mike Tyson went to prison for years after a woman claimed that yes, she phoned him in his hotel after 2 a.m., yes she then went up to his hotel room in the middle of the night, but no she didn't actually want to have sex with him so it was rape and he should pay millions i n damages as demanded by her lawyer. Tyson went to jail for years!
A good looking and unmarried young medical doctor, a relative of the Kennedy clan, went to the Au Bar in Florida where he met a woman who went home with him after 2 a.m. Later the woman said that they had sex but it wasn't what she wanted and she sued him for damages. A Florida prosecutor, perhaps sensing the chance of headlines and political advancement, brought the young man to trial for rape. He
had money enough for a great lawyer and eventually won.
Near West Point and at a college town where a quarterback named Jamis is from, women in totally separate cases claimed that after they had a great deal to drink before parties, they went, drank some more, had sex, and can't remember saying okay so it must have been rape.
Corporations are sometimes accused as unjustly as innocent victim of a rape accusation. WHY, accusers demand, is a drug company not spending more of its "millions in profits" finding a cure for AIDS--and then when the company gambles close to a billion on medical research that finds a cure or near-cure, WHY is the company charging so much for it (at the expense of a government spending hundreds of billions a year on foreign wars in small countries)?
An excellent writer named Jed Rakoff became a lawyer highly successful at defending corporate executives accused of white collar crime. He wrote a major New York Law Journal column answering the question of "how could you represent such people." Rakoff's answer was that some defendants are in truth not guilty and our terrific system of justice will work only if there are defense lawyers,not just prosecutors.)
(President Clinton had the good sense to make Jed Rakoff a judge and he is today very tough on Wall Street although he'd probably say he is fair not tough.)
Joe Honick, GMA International Ltd (Jun. 20, 2014): Ron recites as absolutely correct right regarding free speech etc as does the NRA about the extent of the Second Amendment and guns. That said, he must also respect the same right of a newspaper to assert its determination of the potential consequences of Will's comments and how that medium is willing to use its access to the public.
As to PR firms accepting unpopular accounts, they certainly do have that right just as we do make those actions public for others to know about, especially when those powerful and talented firms become the mouthpieces for the foreign policies of the likes of Mr Putin and those "nice" folks in Iran and elsewhere. After all, nobody stopped Henry Ford from his virulent anti-Semitism and gushing support of Hitler either.
So, Ron does have a point. So does the St Louis Dispatch which is not the government restraining George Will's freedom, merely his former employer suggesting he go elsewhere.
Ronald N Levy (Jun. 20, 2014): This shows an important PR reality that PR experts teach management: the PR reality is that your freedom of speech doesn't give you freedom of consequences from speech.
You have every right to be for or against same sex marriage, contraception, immigration issues and more but if you say what you think and it gets out, it can mean your ass and your aspirations.
Not only did the Los Angeles Clippers owner learn this the hard way when his views about blacks were secretly recorded by an attractive woman, but even by world class PR wizards executives like Bob Dilenschneider who have taken on unpopular accounts.
Dilenschneider was faulted--and employees of his firm actually marched on the streets in protest--when he accepted an assignment to help the Catholic Church! (The assignment was not anti-abortion as protesters assumed incorrectly that it was.)
You don't always get a chance to tell your side if you are faulted for what you honestly believe or for representing the unpopular.
Lawyers sometimes represent the guilty (sometimes free to use that awful f-word) because everyone is entitled to a fair trial, and doctors help heal the sick without asking whether they have sinned. But communicators may be wise not to say what many people don't want to hear.