Who gave the most disastrous sound bite of 2012? While the snappy, clever phrase is the dream of every publicist and journalist, life doesn’t always go along with the plan. As we look back at the year in PR and media, we present four of the deadliest quotes of 2012. In each case, silence would have been golden.
Mitt Romney and the now notorious “47 percent.“ Filmed secretly at a fundraiser, the Presidential candidate gave the nuclear sound bite that boomeranged back. Whatever the context, the media wouldn’t let anyone forget that Romney was referring to a very substantial part of the electorate. From then on, it was an uphill PR climb for Romney, his campaign permanently on the defensive until its conclusion. What a difference a percentage can make!
Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase, for his reference to a trading loss he airily dismissed as a “tempest in a teacup.” As the losses continued and wiped $14 billion off the market value of JPMorgan, his bravado seemed increasingly misplaced.
Then again, it’s a tough call between Jamie Dimon and Bob Diamond, CEO Of UK banking giant Barclays. Speaking at a Parliamentary enquiry into Liborgate, Bob Diamond proclaimed, “The time for apologies is over.” But as the LIBOR scandal continues to claim more scalps, including his own, and fresh allegations of money laundering and sanction-breaking by some of the worlds biggest banks emerges, Diamond’s words now seem laughably misjudged. In the public mind, the time for apologies has just begun.
Todd Aikin and “Legitimate rape.” A sound bite that will survive way beyond the 2012 election, this phrase was regrettably coined by Akin, a Republican member of Congress and long time anti-abortion advocate. In an interview, he claimed that victims of what he described as “legitimate rape” rarely become pregnant as the “female body has ways to try to shut down that whole thing down.” Bipartisan jaws dropped in unison, and an entirely predictable firestorm ensued. Akin backpedalled, apologized, and sought to explain. “Out of context” was his initial defense, “a poor choice of words” came later, but the damage was done. He ultimately lost his seat and remains partly blamed for helping move electoral sentiment in the opposing direction.