When a big-name client star (like, say, Mel Gibson) screws up big-time, a smart publicist should (a) urge him to “go fast, go humble” in terms of admitting guilt and showing remorse, (b) suggest a one-on-one mea culpa interview with a single reporter (i.e., Larry “cottonball” King) who will allow the client to make as good a case as possible” and “then go radio silent and not keep flogging that wild beast “, (c) urge him to say he’ll “never do it again, but [he] also has to say it to himself and mean it”, or (d) all of the above.
This is some of the sage advice passed along by various crisis publicists in a New York Times piece by Dennis McDougal about the lessons of the Gibson mess.
Veteran publicist Richard Lewis says Gibson’s problem isn’t insurmountable, adding that both the Rev. Jesse Jackson and former California congressman Robert K. Dornan “were eventually able to rise above” notions that they held anti-Semitic beliefs. “The next step in[Gibson’s] rehabilitation is to get him in front of Jews,” Mr. Lewis tells McDouglal.
But Hollywood p.r. legend Michael Levine says Gibson is looking at a very long and arduous process. “Some things are so egregious that you can’t get out of it in a day or two,” he tells McDougal. “This will take 20 years to fix, not 20 minutes. [Gibson] has a long walk up a steep hill.”