Religious Liberty, Presidential Pardons, and #MeToo

So much has happened, and it’s only Tuesday. Given the busy, busy news cycle, we thought we’d highlight the teachable moments from yesterday’s top stories:

#1 — U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop

This story has been making headlines for a while, so Jack Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop are now household names. Which is the point. You want to fight for someone rather than against someone, and the only way you’re able to do so is by connecting a face to an issue. The importance of this case for religious liberty doesn’t change, but you’ll win more hearts and minds any time you can talk about a person instead of a wonky policy or legal case.

#2 — Trump threatens to pardon himself

In a bright and early Monday morning tweet, President Trump reminded the Twitterverse that he has the power to pardon himself:

In case you’re asked to respond, here’s a block and bridge:

Q: President Trump claimed he has the power to pardon himself – do you support his claim?

A: “The Constitution does allow for a President to pardon himself, but my hope is that the result of this investigation will be clear and swift and not warrant any threat of a presidential pardon.” Then immediately transition to your talking point as we assume you don’t intend to address presidential pardons in your interview.

#3 — Bill Clinton makes an impeachment claim

Bill Clinton is back in the spotlight to promote a book he coauthored with James Patterson, which you may not have realized because the sound bites from his latest interview cover every topic BUT the book. This is a PR nightmare made worse by Clinton’s hypocritical attempts to label “bad behavior” in others. To avoid a similar fate for you or your boss, remember that it’s not a good move to call out someone else’s indiscretions when you haven’t apologized for your own. It’s best to start with “I’m sorry.”

B²: “I’m not a socialist!”

If this had been Hillary Clinton’s answer when repeatedly asked by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews if she considers herself a “socialist” like Bernie Sanders, newspaper headlines, panels of pundits, and Twitter would’ve easily defined the fall out.

Instead she said, “I’m a progressive Democrat who likes to get things done and who believes we’re better off in this country when we’re trying to solve problems together.”

Well done, Hillary.

It’s likely she learned from so many who’ve taught us what NOT to do (including her husband) – if you try to distance yourself from an accusation (whether it’s true or not), the audience often thinks you’re guilty.

A few noteworthy examples:

  • “I’m not a crook.” (President Richard Nixon in response to the Watergate Scandal)
  • “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” (President Clinton in response to sex scandals)
  • “I’m not a bully.” (Governor Chris Christie in the Bridgegate Scandal press conference)
  • “I’m not a witch.” (Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell in response to dabbling in witchcraft years earlier)

If you don’t want to dominate the news cycle with talk of what you aren’t, the obvious solution is to talk about what you are! But DMG realizes that’s much easier said than done. Especially when your character is attacked and you desperately want to set the record straight.

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that allows you to avoid those pesky “I am not (fill in the blank)” headlines:

Q: “Aren’t you just a (fill in the blank)?” or “Aren’t you just trying to (fill in the blank)?”

B²: “Not at all. I’m (fill in the blank of what you ARE)” or “That’s not the case. What I am doing is (fill in the blank of what you ARE doing) <insert talking point>.”

Wherever you take the conversation next, fight the urge to say what isn’t true since the media can (and will) easily recycle it over and over and over. Instead, negate the faulty premise with “not at all” or “that’s not the case” and then focus on who you are or what you are doing. You’ll cut the accusation off at the head, remain on offense rather than defense, and shift the narrative to what you want to talk about. And that’s a message that wins.