Lewinsky Tries to Turn Media In Her Favor This Time

 Lewinsky Tries to Turn Media In Her Favor This Time

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Monica Lewinsky.

Sixteen years ago, a White House intern named Monica Lewinsky became a household name. This week, a now 40-year-old Lewinsky will tell all about her affair with President Bill Clinton in a Vanity Fair essay entitled “Shame and Survival.” The piece is available to digital subscribers today and on newsstands this weekend.

According to promotional tidbits, Lewinsky says it’s time “to bury the blue dress,” a rather wince-inducing reference to one of the more salacious details of the saga: that Lewinsky had a frock bearing carnal proof of presidential coupling. In the piece, she reportedly says she deeply regrets the affair, which was consensual, and that she feels her entire life has been charted by those few years of youthful indiscretion. In writing the essay, she says,  “I’ve decided, finally, to stick my head above the parapet so that I can take back my narrative and give a purpose to my past. (What this will cost me, I will soon find out.)”

Lewinsky says she was inspired to break her silence by Tyler Clementi, a college student who, apparently distraught after being filmed in a romantic interlude with another man,  committed suicide in 2010 by jumping off New York’s George Washington Bridge. Lewinsky says she could identify with Clementi’s anguish and the possibility that someone could be “humiliated to death.”

The buzz about the impending essay is formidable. The question now is: Will Lewinsky’s tale live up to the hype?

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Monica Lewinsky, who for better or worse will always be Monica Lewinsky.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Media can bring both condemnation as well as redemption. Over a decade ago, a young Lewsinky had no control over with the media said about her. As she astutely notes, she was “possibly the first person whose global humiliation was driven by the Internet.” Today, with the benefit of maturity and an auspicious media platform, she just might have a chance at rewriting her own footnote in the history books.

The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & Losers

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (GOLD STAR!) TO: Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase. Nothing beats a ringing endorsement, and Warren Buffet threw his PR weight behind Dimon by recommending him as Secretary of Treasury when Tim Geithner finally hangs up his boots. For Dimon, whose halo has arguably faded over the last 12 months, this was a shot in the arm for an unofficial campaign that still has him denying he wants the job anyway. As an outspoken banker against regulation, Dimon’s PR image has also endured the recent fracas of the London Whale losses and headlines relating to  manipulation of the energy market. However, Saint Warren’s benediction minimizes those sins. A smart move in what might be a long running campaign.

 

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) TO: Susan Rice. The UN Ambassador likely has grill marks on her suit from the intense inquisition–er, questioning being administered by John McCain and Lindsey Graham in a bid to stop her nomination as Secretary of State. At issue: What Rice knew, when she knew it, and if she even knew anything at all about the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Libya. Rice is currently being forced into a game of who-said-what with the CIA. The Administration gets an “F”  for failing to characterise this entire issue as an operational failure and instead allowing its opponents to claim it as a policy issue.  If Rice does ultimately get the job, monitoring warring nations will seem a comparative piece of cake.

 

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO: Gennifer Flowers. The former model and actress who said she had a long-term affair with Bill Clinton in 1992 was recently consulted by an ABC affiliate for comment on the David Petraeus affair (because…she’s an expert on politicians’ dalliances?). During the interview, Flowers took full credit for Clinton’s presidential nomination, saying that her damning press conference “made him a household name overnight.” Good to know at last how he really ascended to the presidency.

Total Arnold

 Total Arnold

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

This week, Arnold Schwarzenegger began promoting his book, Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story. Schwarzenegger’s life is nearly unbelievable – he was a champion body builder who became the highest paid actor in Hollywood despite a heavyweight German accent and a nearly unpronounceable name. He then married a member of the Kennedy family and become governor of California. And the focal point of all his latest interviews? His affair with the housekeeper.

Surely Schwarzenegger didn’t want to include the chapter detailing his affair with housekeeper Mildred Baena, yet on some level he must have known this was the double-edged sword of PR: talk about the thing you don’t want to talk about, or no one will buy your book. In interviews, Schwarzenegger shows contrition, albeit insensitively, referring to the affair with Baena as “my screw-up” and “a disaster.” Arnie, it seems, is untroubled by how this might affect the result of this affair: his youngest son, Joseph. And it’s hard to tell whether he’s sorry for what he did to wife Maria Shriver, or sorry he got caught.

Schwarzenegger follows Eliot Spitzer, Anthony Weiner, John Edwards, and many others whose works and lives became defined by a single act: that of schtupping the maid, or the prostitute, or sexting the intern. Only Bill Clinton moved beyond Monica, though his career remains tarnished by the scarlet letter.  Yet what do we really expect from The Governator? Nothing other than what he’s giving, and gives well: He doesn’t care what you think about him, only that you think about him.

The PR Verdict: B (Good Show) for Arnold Schwarzenegger. The grade is based not on character but for his handling of the media and for canny self-promotion via contrition.

The PR Takeaway: Scandal always outlasts notable works. Whatever leads those in positions of power towards the scandalous is for the Psychiatrist’s Verdict. But for our purposes, as Arnie clearly shows, the public relations prescription is to own up; apologize with sincerity; pour barbecue sauce on yourself in preparation of being grilled by the media; and get back to the business of doing whatever good works were interrupted by your poor judgment. Finally, get on with counting the royalties, while remaining contrite at all times.

What do you think of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s media profile? Give us your PR Verdict!

How Can Monica Get Past The Little Blue Dress?

monicalewinsky How Can Monica Get Past The Little Blue Dress?

The PR Verdict: "C" for Monica and her PR reinvention so far.

Monica Lewinsky’s reputation seems to have been frozen in time.  Caught in a sensational political triangle 14 years ago, she still retains the ability to polarize.

PBS’s forthcoming four-hour documentary on the Clinton Presidency is airing this week and according to reviews it focuses minimally on the substantive issues of Clinton’s administration.  Instead of financial deregulation, brewing Islamic fundamentalism and failed health care reform, on centre stage sits Monica and the little blue dress.

Over the years, Hilary Clinton has transformed her reputation as the vilified First Lady into an exemplary Secretary of State. Husband Bill has morphed into the elder statesman. But Monica remains trapped by her PR image as the voluptuous intern who led a President astray.

The PR Verdict: “C” for Monica and her failed reinvention so far. The PBS documentary opens up ample PR opportunities for an image rehabilitation that has her being far more than her current handbag line and NYC partying.

Monica Lewinsky in her previous interviews has complained the past is always following her.  Follow-up from the documentary might be her best chance to make the break. Cultivate a new look and turn a new page. Next, form alliances with well-known and influential female editors who will convey gravitas by association and be eager to show off the new you. Palling around with Tina Brown and Arianna Huffington might be a good place to start.

To read about the PBS documentary click here. To read a New York Magazine profile on Monica click here.