Petraeus Scandal Sisters Trashed in T&C

 Petraeus Scandal Sisters Trashed in T&C

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Jill Kelley and sister Natalie Khawam (pictured left, with lawyer Gloria Allred).

What happened to the David Petraeus scandal? The temperature surrounding twin sisters Jill Kelley, the famous “Tampa socialite,” and her now equally famous twin sister Natalie Khawam continues to head in the wrong direction. The latest issue of Town & Country Magazine must have both sisters fuming. In a feature called “A Four Star Scandal,” journalist Vicky Ward describes the sisters as nothing short of scandal plagued and “on the make” (which does make for amusing reading).

Jill Kelley is the woman invariably described in media shorthand as the “Tampa socialite” involved in the Petraeus scandal. She was known to give extravagant parties attended by the top military brass, including General David Petraeus, a four-star general and then head of the CIA. Arguably, his affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell only came to light due to e-mails from Broadwell telling Kelley to back off from Petraeus. (Still with us?) The e-mails precipitated the end of Petraeus’s distinguished career.

The gist of T&C’s profile of sisters Jill and Natalie? That they’re social climbers who drop names at every opportunity while running up massive debts and scheming to snare moneyed men. Both sisters have indicated to some media outlets that they are now considering their legal and PR options. (Natalie has already retained notorious lawyer Gloria Allred.) Unfortunately, the horse has already bolted from the stable door.

THE PR VERDICT: ”D” for Jill Kelley and Natalie Khawam. This is one social comeback that will be hard to manage.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Find SOMETHING to say, even if it’s via a publicist. The article quotes any number of sources and former acquaintances willing to drive in the stiletto. With both sisters declining to be interviewed, a sober and measured statement from a third party publicist was in order. “No comment” might be a valid choice, but having no voice at all made the twins lose their PR battle from the outset. Next time, make sure there is another voice to counterbalance the slant. An e-mailed statement, for example, can change everything; the sisters, of all people, should have known that.

Paula Broadwell: The Invisible “Other Woman”

 Paula Broadwell: The Invisible Other Woman

The PR Verdict: “B” for Paula Broadwell and her PR strategy of morphing from the “other woman” to the “invisible woman.”

Any guesses as to what life is like at the home of Paula Broadwell? For anyone who has missed the latest  “spy who loved me” headlines, Broadwell is the scholar, athlete, and biographer who has been named as the “other woman” in the life of now-retired general David Petraeus. Fooling around with Broadwell cost Petraeus his job as head of the CIA. We assume he will bounce back, but what of her?

It’s not yet clear where and when the headlines will stop. Apparently the FBI came across Petraeus’s indiscretion while investigating emails that Broadwell sent to a third party. Broadwell, in an apparent fit of jealousy, allegedly threatened another woman via email who, because the emails allegedly concerned the head of the CIA, reported it to the FBI. Some weeks later the career of the Chief Spook was over.

It’s not clear what Broadwell should do now. Is it time for her to set the record straight? As a forty-year-old mother of two, she presumably wants to preserve her credibility. Her previously well-received biography of Petraeus is now viewed with cynicism and Broadwell’s new uncomfortable fame is as Petraeus’s nemesis. If she talks, it will only add fuel to the fire.

The PR Verdict: “B” for Paula Broadwell and her PR strategy of morphing from the “other woman” to the “invisible woman.”

The PR Takeaway: Wait until the smoke clears. Sometimes the only thing to do is lay low and wait for better visibility.  At the moment, l’affaire Petraeus remains highly volatile. With new parties being added to the mix and congressional hearings still to take place, Broadwell needs to maintain maximum flexibility. Having disappeared entirely from public view, the media is on the lookout for her, but for the moment the best advice is to resist any temptation to set the record straight and be completely incommunicado. It’s better to read the press coverage from the comfort of a getaway location. Now is not the time for visibility.