Does anyone care what teenage heart-throb Justin Bieber thinks about abortion? Who knew he even had an opinion? An incendiary quote provides a cautionary tale as to why a PR flak should sit in on most interviews.
Last week, Rolling Stone published an excerpt of its cover story with the teenage singer. As excerpts go, it was certainly the raciest part of an otherwise dull interview. Bieber was asked how he feels about abortion. He said he was against it. The interviewer then asked if Bieber believed in terminating pregnancies in cases of rape. Bieber was quoted as saying, “Well, I think that’s really sad, but everything happens for a reason.” Cue cyber outrage.
As the Internet burned with the quote, and the indictment pictured above, Rolling Stone then amended the comment–presumably following pressure from Bieber’s PR–adding a previously omitted sentence. The boy wonder from Ontario apparently said, “Well, I think that’s really sad, but everything happens for a reason. I don’t know how that would be a reason. I guess I haven’t been in that position, so I wouldn’t be able to judge that.” (Italics ours to show addition.) Not much better, still problematic. Next time, how about avoiding the topic altogether?
The PR Verdict: “D” (It’s a Dud) for Justin Bieber and his publicist. No need to answer a difficult, controversial question. Either take a pass or let the PR flak take the heat.
The PR Takeaway: Count on being ambushed in interviews, especially by potentially unfriendly media outlets. Unless Bieber genuinely wants to campaign on the incendiary issue of abortion, coach him on how to politely decline to answer the question. If the interviewer presses, it’s up to the PR Flak to bring the conversation back on track and on brand. While undoubtedly annoying to the journalist, it’s certainly easier than clearing up the later inevitable cyber mess.
Did Rolling Stone have a right to edit Bieber’s comment to make it more controversial, or should Bieber’s publicity team have coached him to avoid topics like these? Give us your PR Verdict, below.