Vance McAllister’s Savvy Crisis Communications
Married Louisiana Congressman Vance McAllister was caught on surveillance video this week passionately kissing a woman at his local office.
The woman, Melissa Anne Hixon Peacock, was a longtime friend and donor to McAllister’s campaign. Making matters more complicated, the woman’s husband was also a friend and contributor to McAllister’s campaign; Mr. Peacock told CNN that this incident has “wrecked his life.”
Even worse, Ms. Peacock was on McAllister’s payroll and was terminated after the video became public.
The Republican freshman has vowed to remain in office, but the messy incident has remained in the news, threatening his young political career.
According to CBS News, McAllister is “reportedly asking for an FBI investigation into the source of the leaked security footage.”
A friend and trusted colleague emailed me today and said, “This seems like a bad idea to me. You cheated on your wife and kids, don’t ask the FBI to find the person who caught you doing it.”
I understand where he’s coming from, but I disagree on this one. Rep. McAllister is taking a page out of two smart crisis management playbooks: Don Draper’s and David Letterman’s.
Don Draper, the fictional MadMen anti-hero, famously said, “If you don’t like what is being said, then change the conversation.” McAllister’s request may help shift at least part of the storyline from his steamy kisses onto the person who leaked the footage.
As for David Letterman, he paid a relatively small public price after news of his affair with a staffer became public. He benefited from having a bad guy in the story who was worse than he was—a blackmailer—and that blackmailer took a much worse media drubbing.
I wish McAllister’s crisis management strategy was to apologize, resign, and retreat from public life. But if his goal is to remain in office, his “find the leaker” strategy may help.
UPDATE, April 9, 2014, 5:40pm
Well, so much for that. According to Politico, Rep. McAllister’s staff said the congressman would no longer pursue an investigation into the leaker. It looks like he will have little to hide behind other than the de rigueur “I have let my family down and will try to do better” line.