Witherspoon’s Withering PR Moment

 Witherspoons Withering PR Moment

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Reese Witherspoon, from arrest to partial apology.

The producers of the new film Mud, starring Reese Witherspoon, were probably hoping for publicity of a different sort for this week’s premiere. Instead of hitting the talk show circuit as planned, Witherspoon made the front pages after being arrested outside Atlanta for boozily mouthing off to a Georgia state trooper.

The officer had pulled over the actress and her husband, Hollywood agent Jim Toth, after seeing Toth driving erratically. As Toth was being arrested on suspicion of drunken driving, Witherspoon became unruly, belittling the trooper, refusing to stay in the car, and pulling out the classic ill-advised celebrity line: “Do you know who I am?”  She was taken away in handcuffs, charged with disorderly conduct, and spent the night in jail.

What an embarrassment for Witherspoon, an actress of the American Sweetheart variety with now-punchline ironic credits such as Walk the Line and Legally Blonde. As a 37-year-old mother of three, she can’t claim youthful indiscretion for this performance. Witherspoon canceled several scheduled appearances to promote her latest movie and issued an apology through her publicist.

Conspicuous by its absence in Witherspoon’s mea culpa, though, was a lack of acknowledgement of the seriousness of her and her husband’s alleged actions. The truly problematic issue here isn’t the disorderly conduct charge, but the couple getting into a car allegedly – and in her case admittedly – intoxicated. “Friends” like E! Host Chelsea Handler downplaying the incident didn’t improve on the situation. Given the broader implications of the arrests, Handler and others would do well to steer clear of this mess.

THE PR VERDICT:  “F” (Full Fiasco) for Reese Witherspoon, from the arrest to the partial apology.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Note to celebrities: Sometimes it’s not all about you. Throughout this unfortunate episode, Witherspoon doesn’t appear to have thought about anyone else besides herself and her husband. Though she may be under a legal directive to say little given the pending criminal charges, one hopes her image rehab will involve admitting their lack of judgment and perhaps taking a visible stand against drunk driving. Fortunately for the tipsy couple – and everyone else on the road – the only damage done here was on the PR front.

Getting Naked with John Travolta

johntravolta Getting Naked with John Travolta

The PR Verdict: “B” for Travolta who was quick with a robust and unequivocal denial.

What else is there to know about John Travolta and his genitals?  According to a thrillingly prurient and detailed lawsuit filed by an unnamed masseur at the Beverly Hills Hotel, the public now knows more than it ever expected.  After recovering from allegedly being groped by the iconic star, the distressed masseur is now suing Travolta for damages.

Seeking $2 million (what might have been claimed if they went all the way?) the masseur’s filing (his name has been withheld) gives a minute-by-minute retelling.  He claims Travolta’s erect penis is approximately 8 inches in length and his pubic hair is “wirey (sic) and unkempt.”  Travolta, on being rebuffed, yelled “Hollywood is controlled by homosexual Jewish men who expect favors in return for sexual activity.”   Undoubtedly an odd response… but bring on the headlines!  They’re guaranteed!

Team Travolta responded with indignation and anger. “Untrue!”  and “False!”   None of the events claimed ever occurred, said his rep.  Besides, Travolta wasn’t in LA at the time of the alleged incident.   The rep said they would fight it and once thrown out, cross sue the masseur for malicious prosecution.   But hold on!  Now a second masseur has come out and joined the Californian lawsuit, claiming Travolta made similar moves at a hotel room in Atlanta.

The PR Verdict: “B” for team Travolta who were quick off the mark with a robust and unequivocal denial. Credibility is going to be strained though if additional complainants join the lawsuit.

PR Takeaway:  As complicating facts emerge it becomes tougher to stick with flat out denials and indignation.   Why not feign indifference?  What a frivolous and cynical lawsuit!  We have handed it to our lawyers.  Point out that Travolta wasn’t even there on the night in question while conceding agreement on three points: the masseur is suing for $2 million in damages, he never approached the police and he filed his opportunistic complaint anonymously.  Next question?

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Who would you place money on? Team Travolta or the Masseur.

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