Reputation Management in the White House

Weeks after Vice President Joe Biden was caught on live TV whispering to President Obama that the signing of the health care bill was a “Big f**king deal,” its video appears on Google as the third link related to his name. Biden is a grown man and he is allowed to conduct himself how he wants, but traditionally this type of slip has always drawn media attention and caused much embarrassment. Ultimately this negative publicity tends to soak up all of the attention from the real political issues at hand.

Over a million people viewed this 14-second clip on YouTube and I would not be surprised if only a few thousand went on to watch the entire speech or research the health care bill in its entirety. Issue management in the public relations field often deals with preventing and managing this type of publicity. The hours of media training that many big political figures undergo in preparation for these types of speeches almost becomes worthless when Biden draws major media attention from these expletive slips.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs tweeted “And…yes Mr. Vice President… you’re right” shortly after the incident. This helped to alleviate the seriousness of the situation. In its own way, the comment downplayed the responsibility of the entire administration, making it known that Biden’s’ choice of words are his own, even if there may be a shared point of view.

Someone who did not take the issue so lightheartedly was 17 year old McKay Hatch who went on to form the “The No-Cussing Club”. His campaign is aimed at trying to get Americans back to using good language.

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3 Responses to Reputation Management in the White House

  1. dsmith says:

    I cringed when I watched the repeat of this on YouTube. Talk about an embarrassment to the administration. I’m pretty sure he could have come up with a better phrase to signalize the magnitude of the health care bill that was being signed. While swear words do express a level of emotion other words in the English dictionary simple cannot, dropping an F-bomb on live television– especially in the midst of a crucial political decision– is hardly appropriate.

  2. srugeris says:

    Thanks for the comment Dsmith. I agree that this reaction was hardly appropriate. Incidents like this go on to subconsciously shape our public opinions of these people of power. When Dick Cheney said, “go f— yourself” I would have assumed each political party would have taken more practiced steps to conduct themselves properly when in a room full of cameras. After Cheney made that comment he was labeled under the “jerk” category of how I saw him as a person because it was rude, and he seemingly had no remorse. Biden’s comment in retrospect makes me think of how unprofessional it is to swear at a political event, especially if you are standing up at the podium.

  3. tburns says:

    I believe it was not appropriate to say publicly, but if you are meaning to say something to someone privately, then I do not see what is wrong with it. This is the problem I have with the mixing of people’s professional and personal lives on social media sites.

    I am a person who swears quite a bit when I am not in a professional environment. I grew up in a house hold where it is not such a big deal to swear when with your friends and family members who are not authority figures. However, I was taught not to swear in front of adults who I must show respect to and when in a professional or formal environment. So, when I am on Facebook writing comments to my friends, I do use cuss words. When I am at my internship, I do not say anything remotely controversial.

    I guess what I am trying to get at is the fact that I do not like this mixing of professional and social roles. There is a sociologist, Erving Goffman, who came up with the idea that we have to put on different masks and fulfill different roles depending upon the situation we are in. I believe in this theory. We are not so much being fake and don’t have a true identity as much as we are adapting our core selves to be acceptable and respectable in certain settings. If I want to say the f-word to my best friend on Facebook, I should be able to. If I am saying it to my boss, not so much. I just think people are being too judgment and critical in thinking we need to act as though we are in t he spotlight all the time.

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