D.C. Madam Goes on the Record — and on TV
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
Now, in the spirit of public service journalism, DAY TO DAY has been surveying some experts on advice to officials whose names might appear on this list. What are you going to say on Saturday morning?
First we called Time.com Washington editor Ana Marie Cox. She founded the political blog Wonkette. Ana Marie Cox, what do you say?
Ms. ANA MARIE COX (Wonkette): Well, I assume one would respond with total and complete surprise. And I think there are two strategies you can go with if you're trying to diffuse the situation. You can either play dumb. You can pretend or rather try to convince people you really had no idea that this is an escort service. You only thought it was a massage therapy service and you were just pleasantly surprised every time you went.
And then there's an option that I don't think many people will embrace but I think that voters and constituents of all sorts would probably respect to some degree, which is that yes, I did, that's true, you know, I've done this thing, this is horrible and I regret it. But you know, politicians are not known for their candor, so I doubt if we're going to see anyone embracing that strategy.
CHADWICK: Ana Marie Cox, Washington editor for Time.com, thank you.
Ms. COX: Thank you.
CHADWICK: And now to Tim Noah. He edits the Hot Documents column at Slate.com, and a question for Tim. Is no comment and adequate response?
Mr. TIMOTHY NOAH (Slate.com): There are no really good choices here, when you get called under these circumstances because it means your phone number has turned up on one of these phone records, so they've pretty much got you dead to rights.
But I thought Randall Tobias, who was the deputy secretary of state, probably made a mistake by saying, well, no sex was involved, you know, I just had a massage; because first of all, it's not very believable, and it gets your mind moving in places you don't really want it to go. It's kind of a too much information sort of deal.
CHADWICK: Let's not even imagine that any of our fellow journalists might show up on this list.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CHADWICK: But - here - I thought here is an out. I was researching a column. I was going to write about this, and so I had to keep calling back.
Mr. NOAH: Right, right. That's always a good one, yeah, absolutely. Or you could say wrong number, I guess. You know.
CHADWICK: Yeah, and I dialed it 20 times per day.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. NOAH: I'm a slow learner.
CHADWICK: Tim Noah at Slate. Tim, thank you.
Mr. NOAH: Thank you.
CHADWICK: And finally, someone who specializes in public relations damage control, Eric Dezenhall of Dezenhall Resources. This is a crisis management firm. Eric actually has a new book out called "Damage Control." So how does one control this damage?
Mr. ERIC DEZENHALL (Dezenhall Resources): Well, I think what you have to ask is, number one, who are you and who is your problem with? I think somebody like Tobias really - I would have probably advised him to step down, basically because that's the quickest way to clot the story. I think the problem comes when you want to remain in a position of prominence.
And if you choose to do battle, there are several options. Number one, just because someone says you are on the list doesn't necessarily mean you're on the list. I could accuse you of being on the list. Especially in the Internet age, you see things like this happening all the time, where alleging is believing, and one option is to deny and fight the fact that you are on the list.
CHADWICK: It's not that Alex Chadwick, right?
Mr. DEZENHALL: Yes, I think that's right. But you can just say, if you believe it's inauthentic, that it's not you. But you have to understand there's peril there. If it turns out you're lying, you're in deeper trouble because you've created a second story.
CHADWICK: How about this response. Ladies and gentlemen of the press, two words: consenting adults.
Mr. DEZENHALL: I think that's a really good option, along the lines of none of your business. I mean Henry Ford once said, never explain, never complain. And if you are a public figure, you can't get away with that so much, but if you are a prominent private citizen, I think there is something to be said for that.
CHADWICK: Eric Dezenhall, author of "Damage Control." Eric, thank you.
Mr. DEZENHALL: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.