TUESDAY TIP: How Not to Apologize

Hillary Clinton’s latest book drops today, but we’ve already been blessed with various audio samples and memes.

The content is no surprise – Hillary takes very little credit and passes most of the blame to Trump, Sanders, Comey, Putin, etc. IT’S NOT HER FAULT, ok?

Except most Americans believe she is to blame for certain things, like that pesky email server. So let’s take a minute to review Hillary’s un-apologies and suggest a better way forward. It’s a case study in what not to do.

Email Server

Hillary’s un-apology: “Mostly, I was furious at myself. It was a dumb mistake. But an even dumber ‘scandal.'”

So close, Hillary! So close. A better response would’ve been…

“Mostly, I was furious at myself. It was a dumb mistake, and I’m deeply sorry for my oversight. But I’m thankful for the lessons I’ve learned…”

Admit fault, total and complete fault, and focus on the future and what you’ve learned. You may think it’s a dumb scandal, but a lot of people disagree. Just apologize and move on.


Hillary’s un-apology: “I regret handing Trump a political gift with my ‘deplorables’ comment…[I’m sorry that people] misunderstood me to be criticizing all Trump voters.”

So, you’re not sorry for calling Trump supporters a nasty name. But rather, you’re sorry they misunderstood your intentions?

Help us, help you, Hillary. An actual apology sounds like:

“I regret calling Trump supporters deplorable. American voters are hard-working, well-intentioned people who contribute to this great nation. I’m thankful to live in a country where we can disagree on political issues, but still enjoy the freedom to do so.”

DO NOT alienate a segment of the voting population by calling them names. You may need their support in four years.

In case you ever have to make a public apology, here’s how we suggest you do it:

1. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. DO NOT follow Hillary Clinton’s lead.

2. Admit fault – total and complete – and promise to do better in the future.

People just want an apology. If you attempt to pass blame, it weakens your apology.

B²: And the winner is…!

14 days and this whole crazy season comes to (or should come to) a close.

We wrote in January about how to B² (block and bridge) prediction questions in reference to the primaries and protecting your tax status. That advice still applies, just replace “primary” with “general” and go forth.

But the next two weeks promise news reports, headlines, and tweets that will complicate the narrative. It’s not just about “who do you think will win on November 8th,” but also rigged elections, phony polls to suppress voter turnout, and Trump’s claim that he will accept the election results if he wins.

Not only do you need to be careful of predicting the winner, but you have to take into account all the crazy too. Get ready.

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “With polls pointing to a victory for Hillary, is there a way forward for Donald Trump?”

B²: “Voters will decide the outcome in a couple weeks. But regardless of who wins the presidency, or what political party wins the majority in Congress, an issue that will be of immediate concern is <insert talking point>.”

Wherever you take the conversation next, don’t give additional air time to predictions or unsubstantiated claims. That isn’t your business, and you risk burying your message. Let pundits hash out the polls and conspiracy theories. You stick to your message and talk policy.

NOTE: This advice also applies to down-ballot races.

B²: A Rigged Election

Over the weekend, Donald Trump and company (shout out to Rudy Giuliani!) began to speculate about the possibility of a rigged election. These cries have only become louder and more numerous in recent days. And you can bet they will continue if the poll numbers increasingly favor Hillary Clinton.

Whether you find any validity in Trump and company’s claims, it’s a great moment to turn the conversation to voter ID laws, and what it means to move through the election process in a free and fair way.

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “Donald Trump has started talking about the possibility of a ‘rigged election.’ Do you think he’s right?”

B²: “We can all agree that a free and fair election is everyone’s goal, and those who meet the requirements to vote should be allowed to vote. One way we make sure those requirements are met is <insert talking point>.”

Wherever you take the conversation next, move away from talk that includes a “rigged election” and similar conspiracy theories. Use this moment to have a serious conversation about voter ID laws, an issue that resurfaces every election cycle. If we want to guarantee free and fair elections, we need to start outlining what that process looks like and why. Last minute cries of “it’s rigged!” don’t resonate, especially at the end of an election cycle that seemingly won’t quit.

For more talking points on how to defend voter ID, read Beverly’s column in The Daily Signal.

B²: Is it too late now to say sorry?

Repeat after us: “I’m sorry.”

Because the first 30 minutes of Sunday night’s debate focused only on the scandalous, it’s obvious that Trump, Clinton, and surrogates should reevaluate their crisis management strategies.

What doesn’t work? Dismissing the accusations, pivoting to another’s bad behavior to take the spotlight off your own, and/or lying. These strategies get you nowhere with undecided voters. With so many words and actions to apologize for between the two candidates, it seems like a lesson in how to say “I’m sorry” is applicable.

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “What do you have to say about <insert scandal>?”

B² (if you’re the accused): “I made a mistake and sincerely apologize to the American people. But I assure you I’ve learned from the mistakes in my past and will do everything I can to prove that as president my words and actions will represent all people in this country.”

B² (if you’re speaking on behalf of the accused): “Donald Trump* made a mistake and sincerely apologized to the American people. When he says he’s learned from his mistakes and will do everything he can to prove that he’ll represent all people as president, I believe him.”

*Can be replaced with “Hillary Clinton”

Wherever you take the conversation next, make sure your statement includes an apology. If you made a mistake, admit it. Voters will forgive an indiscretion if you ask forgiveness rather than try to explain it away or cover it up. And if you’re speaking on behalf of someone who made a mistake, refer back to their apology. Just like the accused, you can’t dismiss (or make light of) the charges. It may not seem obvious in 2016, but honesty still counts for something.

B²: He Said, She Said

A lot of people tuned in to witness Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton strike the careful balance between policy talk and entertainment television. Americans want to know where the candidates stand on the issues, but also demand a meme-able moment…or 7.

Last night delivered. With a one-on-one split screen that just wouldn’t quit, the candidates were on full display. And a non-existent moderator allowed both to trade unassisted monologues and attack each other without limitation.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, in a debate without a moderator to interrupt or apply a timeline, how do you defend yourself?

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “<Insert Hillary’s attack on tax returns>.”

B²: “<Dismiss tax return claim and quickly pivot to Clinton Foundation>.”

Wherever you take the conversation next, very quickly discredit the claim and then attack your opponent. When Hillary mentioned Trump’s tax returns, the best response would’ve been to dismiss it and then attack her on the Clinton Foundation. A worthy attack he didn’t take advantage of, which seems to be the theme of the night…on both sides. In a debate, you always want to move from defense to offense. In. Every. Answer.

B²: Cough, Cough

It doesn’t take a visit to WebMD to figure out that something is wrong with Hillary Clinton.

Despite the muddled and changing responses Clinton’s campaign has offered to explain her mysterious illness (illnesses?), one thing is certain – her health is now a news cycle of its own.

You will likely field questions about pneumonia, overheating, and/or seizures when asked by the media to address the 2016 political landscape, but don’t give in. You’re not a doctor, so don’t give a diagnosis.

If you have policy matters to discuss, DMG promises you can avoid sacrificing your interview time to address Clinton’s health concerns. How?

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “Do you think voters should continue to worry about Hillary Clinton’s health getting in the way of her ability to perform presidential duties?”

B²: “It’s obvious Secretary Clinton is under the weather, so I first want to wish her a quick recovery. Voters do/don’t have a right to be concerned because… <insert talking point>.”

Wherever you take the conversation next – to approach Hillary’s health issues as a cover up or pivot to a policy unrelated to pneumonia – always show sympathy first by wishing her to better health.

Meeting emotion with emotion will not only prevent you from looking insensitive to the fact that she is struggling, but will give you credibility to bridge to what you want to talk about.

After all, despite the dozen Saturdays you’ve devoted to binge-worthy medical shows like Grey’s Anatomy, ER, or Scrubs, it’s best if you realize others may be more qualified than you to address bronchial issues.

B²: Aleppogate

Everyone and their mother has chimed in on Gary Johnson’s very sincere inquiry: “And what is Aleppo?”

Some quickly rushed to his defense: 1) claiming Trump didn’t understand Brexit and/or 2) pointing out Johnson’s authenticity in not trying to cover up what he didn’t know. Others find it appalling that a man running for President of the United States didn’t recognize the center of the refugee crisis.

Regardless of your take on the Gary Johnson fiasco, we want to analyze the mistake and recommend a way forward for him and for you (if you should find yourself in a similar situation).

So, here’s what we can learn:

Admit when you’re wrong (ahem, Hillary Clinton). If you found Johnson’s question refreshing, you’re not alone. His sincere and forthright response demonstrated humility and transparency – rare qualities among politicians these days.

That said, he could’ve handled it better. So, for Gary Johnson, and everyone else who finds themselves in a similar situation, we have a suggestion or two.

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “Insert question you don’t understand or haven’t been briefed on>?”

B²: Whether it’s Aleppo or any other issue, we have to be thoughtful and approach with leadership. One way to do so is…<insert talking point>.”

Wherever you take the conversation next, give a vague answer hoping for further clarification OR admit the issue is outside your frame of reference. Both responses guarantee no harm, no foul.

B²: Free college for everyone!

Round 2 of political conventions kicked off last night. Leading up to the DNC’s party in Philly, it was pretty easy to guess what topics the Dems might highlight – income equality, a woman’s right to choose, and #NeverTrump. But the email scandal revealed by Wikileaks has Hillary desperate to change the conversation and court Millennials – Bern’s biggest supporters.


In order to sway those diehard Millennials for Bernie, Hillary has to speak their language by propping up the causes they champion AS WELL AS creating distance between herself and the DNC emails.

Because Hillary will cheer loudly for “free” college this week, do you know how to project a voice of reason?

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “What do you think about ‘free’ college?”

B²: “As we all know, free is never free. While we agree that college should be accessible and affordable for those who need a college degree to advance in their careers, the problems of ‘free’ college should be addressed. <Insert talking point>.”

Wherever you take the conversation next, reiterate that free is never free. Illustrate this point by citing monetary costs (obviously), but also opportunity costs. Yes, there will be an inevitable spike in the cash money each person owes (because someone has to pay for it!), but students will also suffer when their educational choices are diminished. College is good and necessary for some, but not for all. And those who don’t need a college education shouldn’t be punished via a larger tax bill to subsidize their fellow Millennial’s skip down Ivy League lane.

B²: SCOTUS and Abortion

As the Running of the Interns confirmed yesterday, the Supreme Court struck down a Texas abortion law that required (among other things) abortion clinics to meet the same health standards as surgical centers.

Some immediately rejoiced…

…while others acknowledged the defeat for what it is – the Supreme Court not only ignored due process, but made it clear that courts—not state legislatures—have the power to determine abortion laws.

So, the fight continues. Especially as November nears and Hillary leads the charge for the Democrats. Women’s health will remain a key talking point on both platforms. Get ready to rumble.

Do you know how to articulate your message in the midst of the firestorm?

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “Why do you want to shut down abortion facilities that provide and protect women’s health?”

B²: “This decision took away the ability to protect women’s health. When Planned Parenthood clinics routinely fail to meet the same safety and health requirements as hospitals, the opposite happens: women’s health is put at risk. Women deserve (insert talking point>.”

Wherever you take the conversation next, maintain that protecting women’s health is your #1 concern…and the Supreme Court just made that goal a lot more difficult to achieve. Cite Kermit Gosnell and the disgusting state of his clinic as example numero uno of what you hope to prevent. Though some (and the mainstream media) will want to make it seem like you’re just out to end abortion (and maybe you are), control the narrative. Talk about women’s health on your terms.

B²: “Are you lying?”

When you hear “honesty,” “truth,” “transparency,” it’s doubtful you think of Hillary Clinton. Especially after that recent CBS interview.

Her less-than-great response to Scott Pelley’s truth-telling question played into the hands of the voters who desire honesty…and don’t believe Hillary is – 56% of respondents in a recent YouGov poll said they don’t believe Hillary is honest or trustworthy.

While DMG has strict standards of only working with people who do tell the truth, we understand that some issues are sensitive and can’t be fully discussed in the media. The need to remain confidential can lead to objectionable questions that are hard to navigate and easily put you in the position of making an uh-oh statement like, “I’m not lying.”

Do you know how to stick to your talking points, maintain confidentiality (if the situation demands it), and not be accused of lying?

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “Are you lying?”

: “Not at all. I’m being straight with the American people because it’s of utmost importance that <insert talking point>…”

Wherever you take the conversation next, don’t start by saying what you aren’t. Start with declarative statements about your honesty/transparency and then B² to the talking point that you wish to deliver.

The lying “gotcha” question can trip up even the most seasoned candidate resulting in a social media frenzy. Don’t let it happen to you!