Allen Responds to Farrow’s Claims in Times

 Allen Responds to Farrows Claims in Times

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Woody Allen.

The old saying “fight fire with fire” was updated in the ongoing, uncomfortably public drama surrounding Dylan Farrow and her adoptive father Woody Allen. A week after Farrow gave a vivid account of alleged sexual abuse at the hands of Allen to the New York Times, Allen responded with a self-penned Opinion piece, also in the Times.

Technically and from a PR standpoint, Allen responded two days after Farrow’s piece ran: His publicist stated facts surrounding the original allegations, and his lawyer followed two days later by restating facts. Never once was Dylan Farrow called a liar; rather, blame was shifted to her mother, Mia Farrow.

Allen continued in that vein, stating the findings of the special unit assigned to child sexual abuse, as well as giving a more personal account. So far, so good. But that gives way to a more emotional side of Allen. He addresses Mia’s coy pondering about son Ronan’s paternity, citing her hint of infidelity as testament to “what kind of character we are dealing with here.”

By the end, the angry Allen becomes a father despairing over a lost relationship, as well as having this alleged incident discussed publicly again. “This piece will be my final word on the matter,” he writes. “Enough people have been hurt.”

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Woody Allen.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: State your case by stating the facts, and then move on. One could hardly expect anyone accused of a heinous crime to remain calm, whether in person or on paper. In cases such as these, damned if you do, damned if you don’t; an unemotional response might have had people calling Woody Allen unfeeling, while the emotion he displayed – anger against Mia Farrow – may also tarnish him. From a PR perspective, his choice to speak, his method of communication, and his venue were all appropriate, as was his promise at the end to say no more.

Allen’s Team Responds to Farrow’s Open Letter

 Allens Team Responds to Farrows Open Letter

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Woody Allen’s PR and legal team. (Pictured: Allen’s lawyer Elkan Abramowitz)

The denial of allegations of sexual abuse is extremely difficult to nearly impossible, especially in a public forum. Yet it was absolutely impossible for Woody Allen to remain silent after his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow wrote an open letter detailing her account of Allen sexually abusing her as a child. But what would Allen say, and how?

The first line of PR response was not for Allen himself to go public. His reaction was given the next day through his longtime publicist Leslee Dart, who said Mr. Allen would respond directly “very soon.” She then listed the legal facts about the investigation.

Another response came yesterday – again, not from Allen, but from his lawyer, Elkan Abramowitz, who gave an exclusive interview to the Today Show. His stance was crucial, as he was speaking for Allen: Would he call the victim a liar? Not a chance. “In my view, she’s not lying,” Abramowitz said. “She truly believes this happened.” He went on to reiterate the legal facts and to present Allen’s explanation: that Mia Farrow, enraged over Allen’s then-new relationship with her adopted daughter (with André Previn) Soon-Yi, coached daughter Dylan to say she was molested. Another talking point Abramowitz made was that Allen was not angry with Dylan Farrow. “His reaction is one of overwhelming sadness,” Abramowitz said.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Woody Allen’s PR and legal team.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Respond – don’t react. Allen’s team is obviously skilled and wise. While Allen’s answer could only be maintaining his innocence, the way this was presented was crucial. One cannot claim innocence without implying that the accuser – in this case, the alleged victim –  is a liar. Unless, that is, blame is diverted to the mother and a reason given for her to manipulate a child. In the court of public opinion, reasonable doubt has been introduced.

Farrow Accuses Allen in NY Times

 Farrow Accuses Allen in NY Times

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Dylan Farrow.

In a weekend filled with public relations news – Yahoo’s mail breach, a former Chris Christie associate saying his boss knew about Bridgegate, the loss of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman – one story stood out. Yet from a PR standpoint, it’s one of most difficult to assess. We’re talking – as is everyone in the media – about Dylan Farrow‘s accusation of sexual molestation by her adoptive stepfather Woody Allen.

Farrow wrote about the abuse in Nicholas Kristof’s column in the New York Times. This was both an interesting and obvious choice. Interesting because Kristof is known for writing about sexual abuse of women and girls all over the world. Obvious because, as Kristof discloses, he is a friend of Farrow’s adoptive mother, Mia Farrow, and her brother Ronan Farrow.

Reaction from the media was swift, and only two sides could be taken. There were those who agreed with Farrow that Allen should not have been honored by the Golden Globes, and those who defended Allen by recounting the fact that he was never formally charged.

From a PR standpoint, the effects on Allen are obviously dire. (At the time of this posting Allen had not responded, but his rep did; read her statement here.) As the statute of limitations has run out on the case by at least 15 years, no legal action can be taken. Farrow’s point was to speak out, she said, for herself and for other victims. In that respect, she has been heard.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Dylan Farrow.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: When dropping a bombshell, choose your vehicle wisely. There’s no doubt Farrow could have made millions with a tell-all memoir or an exclusive to a tabloid. However, Farrow said her point was to speak out for herself and for other victims of abuse. By choosing the column of a champion of women’s rights in a respected newspaper, with no money exchanged, she maintained the integrity of her goal.