Deception, incoherent responses, lack of judgement and accountability will prolong the media’s interest in a negative story and likely have longterm effects. And it doesn’t have to be that way.
Recently, a local public official crashed his car, and was cited for DUI. He was injured, and days later, sent an email to political allies and supporters, writing that he didn’t remember the day of the accident. While he admitted to alcohol problems in the past, he denied to the media that he ever did drugs.
One lie, maybe two, packed in that response.
Weeks later, the police released the results of a toxicology report. It ruled out alcohol as a cause, but blamed a “stimulant.” The public official said he had yet to see the report and still didn’t know what happened that day. Worse, political allies strongly and publicly supported him in his odd assertions. Then a reporter asked if he ever did meth and/or cocaine. The public official admitted he had struggled with both.
The public has come a long way in understanding and appreciating alcohol and drug addiction. Most have had a family member, friend or colleague struggle with sobriety.
In general, being honest and upfront, apologizing and promising that you will fight for your recovery and work to regain the trust of the public is the best approach. Now, a lawyer may say don’t admit unless you have to. But public officials are held to a higher standard, and people don’t like to be lied to and manipulated.
For the public official, it’s getting too late fast. A hearing is set for later this month, and the public will likely find out the official was not telling the truth. His judgement and integrity will be questioned. The judgement of his political allies will be questioned.
After the accident, a confession and a pledge for recovery could have ended the story. Now, it will just probably end a career.