Media training 101: When you do dumb things, admit it and don’t blame others!
We’ve all heard about it and seen the news clips by now. Senator Ted Cruz jetting off to Cancun from a Houston airport with a bag packed with flip-flops and suntan lotion while his constituents were fighting for their very survival during one of the most devastating winters in Texas’ history.
Shocked travelers Tweeted photos of the Senator that went viral. When Cruz arrived in Mexico for his sun-and-fun getaway, reporters descended on. He was bombarded with questions about his rationale for taking a sunny holiday during a state-wide disaster that had millions of Texans in freezing, ice-covered conditions with no electricity, no heat, and no access to food, clean water, or transportation.
Instead of immediately admitting he had made a terrible decision, the quick-thinking Senator decided to blame his daughters and to gallantly fall on his sword for being a “good dad.” No one bought that lame excuse.
Within an hour, Cruz was busted. Reporters uncovered Cruz’s travel reservations, text messages to friends, and other evidence clearly showing what everyone suspected. Ted Cruz willingly planned to abandon his senatorial leadership responsibilities and constituents in their time of need for several days of margaritas and snorkeling at a posh Mexican resort.
As a media trainer, I drill two big rules into all my clients’ heads, whether they are well-known or not. One is to never lie to the media. Reporters are great detectives, and they will uncover the truth and report it. Secondly, never blame someone else for your bad judgment or behavior. Politicians are notorious for blaming others for their wrongdoings. But, I have to say, blaming your children is a new one to me. But, both reactions will tarnish your reputation even worse than just immediately owning up to the scandal.
What should have Cruz said? 1) Immediately taken responsibility for making a wrong decision. He shouldn’t put qualifiers or excuses in the statement. 2) Profoundly apologize to his constituents in Texas. 3) Say what he will do to fix/rectify/resolve the incident – then do it!
Will this absolve someone of all guilt? Well, it depends on the level of “the crime.” In Cruz’s case, this will probably be a wart he’ll wear for years. If it were closer to his reelection year in 2024, it could overthrow his political career. But, in recent years, voters and colleagues seem to have shorter memories.
We’ve seen political leaders boldly lie, be offensive, skirt the law, and put their personal goals ahead of the needs of the people who they serve. Their punishment? Unfortunately, they end up getting a pass. They are not held accountable, so they continue their bad behavior.