Action Alert!

a spokesman for himself

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Nov 02, 2010

This is pretty simple, really.

If you're the press spokesman for a public figure, and your boss is getting bad press, you have two options:

  1. You can blame yourself.
  2. Or you can blame the boss.

Let's take it for granted that the boss created problems for himself, by making ill-considered public statements on hot-button issues. What do you do now? Again you have two options.

  1. You can start talking to reporters, giving them some background, explaining what the boss really meant to say, putting his awkward comments in the best possible light. It will be hard work, but you'll be earning your salary and proving your loyalty. 
  2. Or you can throw your boss under the bus. Sure, you'll still talk with reporters. But you'll shake your head sadly, sympathize with their outrage, tell them (on deep background, naturally) that the boss's statements are difficult to justify, remind them how difficult your maladroit boss has made your own life.

Now let's suppose that despite your very best efforts, the boss keeps making untoward public statements. You realized that you can't protect him from the consequences of his own blunders. Now what? Yet again two options present themselves:

  1. You can resign quietly, with a vague excuse about looking for new professional challenges. It will be an awkward moment for you, but it will minimize the embarrassment for the boss.
  2. Or you can call a press conference and denounce him. You'll come off looking good-- at first-- but people might question your loyalty, and suspect that you've been choosing option #2 all along.

What happened in Brussels, do you suppose? 

Archbishop Leonard has been getting a lot of bad press; that much is clear. But after today's press conference, called by his outgoing press spokesman, it's not unreasonable to wonder whether the archbishop has been getting bad press despite his spokesman's conversations with reporters or because of them. 

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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