By Barbara Laskin, President, Laskin Media
The truth is…hecklers are like hackers. They’re shameless and their goal is to disrupt, steal stuff (in this case, the limelight) and cause damage. And everybody hates them. From a media training standpoint, Anthony Weiner’s sex saga is instructive on many levels. Leaving out his “personal failings,” it was his reactions to those failings that cost him his job and quite possibly, his political future…though, you never know. After all, Elliot Spitzer has become the new sage of CNN.
Whatever you do or say in public is only as good as the media’s response to it. While some have bemoaned the fact that Weiner resigned in public (NBC’s Ann Curry wailed, “Why did he do that?”), had he not, and done it via press release, I guarantee you that he would have been slammed for cowardice. Today’s media is as callous as it is forgetful. It wasn’t too long ago that everyone disapproved of downcast wives standing beside their husbands as they apologized for their transgressions.
And yet, there were some in the media openly wondering why Weiner’s wife wasn’t around when he finally copped to on-line philandering.
No doubt Weiner took a risk by resigning in public. He could not have predicted that Howard Stern would unleash his potty-mouthed surrogates on the press conference. But, however loud and obnoxious those catcalls were, I would have counseled Weiner to do the same thing. It showed guts. Segueing to the corporate world, if there is a particularly dicey issue that needs to be addressed because the media or someone else will disclose it, the best thing to do is simply come forward, and come clean.
Rep. Weiner did much better with his resignation appearance than he did with his lying disingenuous interview to Wolf Blitzer and others. He soldiered on. He was brief. He said what he had to say. He put the emphasis where it should have been: on his failure as a politician to serve with distinction. He (thankfully) didn’t take any questions. It’s what he should have done previously with his “admittance of guilt” speech. Back then, he allowed questions and got walloped because he didn’t know how to stop them, or answer them effectively.
You should never respond to foul-mouthed attention-seekers—in fact, the reporters started to take care of them for Weiner by yelling at the intruders themselves. Audiences, too, always support the speaker, not the hecklers. Even if the transgression is awful…the person who comes forward to repent is always vulnerable and therefore, an object of pity. My advice to anyone in Weiner’s position is this: Just say what you have to say, say it clearly and concisely, say it as if you mean it—and get the hell off the stage.