Congressman Anthony Weiner.
I take no delight in what happened to the Congressman, and I am not going to pile on. His friends are already doing that.
There are however, lessons in this for all those in public life.
We are human, and we have all said or done something we’d rather not read on the front page of the New York Times. Public officials are fallible, and they do sometimes make colossal errors in judgment.
If you are in public life and make a mistake, here is the rule. Don’t lie. Get your story straight and stick to it. Admit that you made a mistake. Apologize. Take full responsibility, even if others are at fault.
What usually ends a career is not the mistake, because Americans have, and will forgive someone who is truly repentant. What they can’t stand are those who lie about what they did, blame someone else or try to cover up their misdeeds.
If you are thinking about running for office, never assume that some stupid thing you once said or did will remain a secret. It won’t.
Early in your campaign put it out and do it on your terms, because if you don’t your opponent will, and they won’t be nice when they do it, and if the sin in your past is new news to a reporter, I can guarantee you that it will be a story.
Telling the press about your problems up front does not ensure they will never be raised in the campaign, or that reporters will never write a story about the dumb thing you did. But pre-empting your problem with the press will improve your chances of having your side of the story in the story.
You’ll be treated better than if you try to hide it and if you are really lucky, the press will decide that your past problem is not a story at all. I can also make this guarantee. If you don’t mention and explain up front something that could be potentially fatal to your campaign, it will probably be fatal.
For more about the dos and don’ts of dealing with the press, visit the training tools section of my website, JayTownsend.com. I’ll bet Congressman Weiner wishes he’d done that a couple weeks ago.