Is that as racy as love letters get? E-mail correspondence between Brett McGurk, President Obama’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to Iraq, and his then-paramour Gina Chon, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, has members of Congress very excited. For the rest of us it’s hard to see what the fuss is about.
The e-mails, dating from 2008, were posted anonymously this week on Flickr–bad timing for McGurk, a top adviser on Iraq who is currently going though congressional approval for the job of US ambassador. Congressional members are concerned that while McGurk was working on tough negotiations with Iraqis, his future wife Chon covered the talks for the WSJ. Could he have leaked to her classified information? If so, they’ll have to try to stay awake while reviewing e-mails such as McGurk’s “I had a very good day with the Iraqis–the best yet. Can’t tell you about it of course. But you should definitely stay past Sunday.” Chon’s reply: “Stop being such a tease!”
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland breezily washed her hands of the issue, telling CNN, “I’m not going to get into e-mails between Mr. McGurk and the woman who subsequently became his wife.” The WSJ had a more cowardly reply to CNN, “We are looking into the matter.”
The PR Verdict: “D” (It’s a Dud) for the Wall Street Journal who could have tried harder to defend its journalist. If the State Department can sound annoyed, why can’t the WSJ?
PR Takeaway: Where’s the beef? The WSJ might have tried publicly shifting the burden of proof onto the accusers: “Which article does the committee think contains leaked information? We would be happy to look into the matter.” Then sit back and wait for the response. And while we are there, how about privately suggesting to members of Congress that they stop calling the emails racy? In this day of Fifty Shades of Grey, they’re hardly blush-inducing.
To read the racy letters and for more background click here.