04.17.2017 10:27 AM

This week’s column: fall on your sword

White House press secretary Sean Spicer standing at the door to a United Airlines plane, sipping a Pepsi. 

 If a picture is worth a thousand words, and it assuredly is, then that would be the picture for the past few days. To wit:

 · United Airlines forcibly “re-accommodated” a Vietnamese-American physician out of the seat he had paid for on an oversold flight in Chicago, smashed his face against an arm rest, broke his nose and some teeth, then blamed him for being “disruptive.” When that turned out to be a bald-faced lie – and when a global backlash resulted in United losing $1 billion in value in just 24 hours – the airline did a whiplash-inducing about-face, and apologized, and said it would never happen again, blah blah blah.

· Pepsi’s in-house “creative team” put together a commercial featuring one of the Kardashian Cretin Crew modelling, then rushing outside to join a passing protest, with lots of knowing nods and fist-bumps ensuing. The Kardsahian Cretin – famous-for-nothing Kendall Jenner, who later insisted she was “traumatized” by the ensuing mean tweets – hands a grateful cop a can of Pepsi, and all is well in the world. Take that, Women’s March, Black Lives Matter, et al.: you wouldn’t have so many darn problems if you bought the right soft drink! Global backlash, withdrawal of ad, groveling apologies, blah blah blah.

· Sean Spicer, the groper-in-chief’s liar-in-chief, (a) calls the Nazi gas chambers “Holocaust centres,” quote unquote; (b) repeatedly mispronounces the name of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, who his boss had just, you know, bombed; and (c) says Hitler didn’t use “chemical weapons” on millions of Jews, gays, gypsies and dissidents when, in fact, he had. Standing before the assembled White House –all of them agog and agape – Spicer said: “You know, you had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.” Immediately, the Anne Frank Centre and many others demanded Spicer be fired. Spicer retracted, apologized, blah blah blah.

Quite a week, eh? It all reminded me of a long-ago Canadian equivalent. During the year 2000 federal election campaign, former Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day – who, it should be noted, this writer always thought bore more than a passing resemblance to Dan Quayle, of potato/potatoe infamy – decided to use Niagara Falls as a backdrop to a campaign announcement.

Standing at the falls’ edge, Day attempted to draw an analogy between the flow of Lake Erie from “north to south” and the “brain drain” from Canada to the United States. A reporter from the area pointed out to Day that, in fact, the relevant body of water drained from “south to north.” Oops!

Missing a golden opportunity to poke fun at himself, and thereby seem as human, Day darkly warned that he would “check the record, and if someone has wrongly informed me about the flow of this particular water, I’ll be having a pretty interesting discussion with them.” So, not only did Day succeed in making himself look like a dummy, he also came across sounding like a dummy who couldn’t take responsibility for his own mistakes.

Such mistakes can have profound consequences, if you don’t deal with them quickly. Personally, I am always a big fan of Bible-thumping Republican/Conservative politicians who regularly denounce gays/abortion/infidelity – and then, subsequently and inevitably, get caught having gay sex/procuring abortions/working with sex workers. Without fail, they end up exposed as sweaty, creepy, debauched nut bars, not self-professed men of God. And regular folks – as United, Pepsi and the White House certainly discovered in recent days – punish them not for the sin, but for the hypocrisy.

The lesson, naturally, is that candidates/companies/communicators should, if the circumstances warrant, ’fess up, laugh at themselves, then move on. Periodically falling on one’s sword is an excellent strategy. Always.

In this writer’s experience, voters and consumers are forgiving. They are profoundly aware of the tendency of humans to have human failings, being human beings themselves. And, as long as mistakes are not being made all the time – cf. Messrs. Day, Quayle and Spicer, above – they will forgive and forget and move on.

Apologies cost nothing. Retractions are free. Once given – unequivocally, sincerely, directly, and without condition – they have magical healing powers.

But the best approach, of course, is to avoid making the dumb mistake in the first place.

Sean Spicer, sipping a Pepsi on that United flight to ignominy, would certainly agree.




  1. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    the salamander says:

    .. we live in a strange era now..
    part fake news & part deny deny elected ‘leadership’
    so the general population gets its daily kibble 24/7
    hardly nutricious facts.. invented hyperbole on droids

    Spicer just a super adept of PR regurgitation mantra spew
    a talking mimeograph superstar .. partisan mercenary
    The ‘messenger’ so to speak

    How did ‘America’ fall lower into this state?

  2. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    CanadianKate says:

    Warren, I was surprised to see on page 41 of the April 8, 2017 edition of The Economist newspaper, a chart entitled: Use of Chemical Weapons. Covering from 1899 and The Hague convention banning the use of “asphyxiating or deleterious gases” to 2017 it lists the constraints and incidents when it was used. During 1937 to 1945, Japan used various gases in China but there is no mention of Hitler.

    Now I’d bet big money neither Spicer nor Trump have consulted this chart but it does back up Spicer’s original comment (not the further misspeaking he did, which is why I’m sure he wasn’t quoting The Economist.) Apparently Hitler is in the clear for a chemical weapon attack according to the definition of chemical weapon attacks.

    (I’d link to the chart except, while I can get past their paywall because I have a subscription but I’m pretty sure there isn’t an open link.)

    • Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
      CanadianKate says:

      “I was surprised to see” would be your clue that yes, I was aware that people were gassed to death on Hitler’s orders.

      But on further thought, given my surprise at The Economist’s chart, I realize that “chemical weapon attack” has specific definition different from “causing death using gas”.

      Had Faux News produced the chart, I would have likely dismissed it. But I respect The Economist and their journalists so conclude there is a nuanced argument here. One that Spicer probably started to parrot after being briefed by someone who understood the nuance, but then, because he didn’t fully understand what he was told, was unable to follow through in response to the reporters’ follow-up questions. Sadly, even with the time between briefings, he still couldn’t come up with a reasoned response.

      I’m looking forward to the next edition of the Economist to see if/how they handle Spicer’s comments, especially in light of their own chart, printed the week before, that backs up Spicer’s assertion.

      If anything, maybe this is a sign of improvement with this Administration. This is the first time that the ridiculous statement didn’t come from a blow-hard commentator on Faux News. Maybe the staff are slowly improving their sources for background information.

  3. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    CanadianKate says:

    Try this link. Apparently I wasn’t at my top googling form the first time I tried.


  4. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    Ronald O'Dowd says:


    Bad news, Sean Spicer is still there. Good news, Sean Spicer still there.

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