Truth in Public Relations

Friday, May 30, 2008

I was taken aback by Scott McClellan's statements in his book "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception" ["Ex-Colleagues Ask, 'What Happened?'; Former Bush Aide Stuns Many With Critical New Book," news story, May 29].

As a public relations practitioner for almost 15 years (for Penn Central and the Philadelphia Housing Authority) and a teacher of the craft for more than 10, I had one thing going for me: integrity. I tried to instill that in my students. A good public relations person must always be honest, even when it hurts. The job is to advise your organization or agency on the facts, then provide ways to present the truth. If McClellan had been one of my students, I would hang my head in shame.

The ethical code of the Public Relations Society of America also decries knowingly presenting falsehoods as fact. In the final analysis, McClellan is more culpable than the people he represented. I only hope that no self-respecting organization will hire him as spokesman.

Any employer should realize that, after his book, reporters will always weigh each of his statements as questionable because, as the motto etched into the entrance to the National Archives reminds us: "What Is Past Is Prologue."


Harrisonburg, Va.

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