Komen and the Rituals of “Damage Control”

In the Atlanta-based Saporta Report, veteran political journalist Tom Baxter has an interesting take on the Komen Foundation fiasco, comparing its handling of adverse publicity over a policy change to similar “damage control” efforts by the Bank of America and Netflix–and to the much slower pace at which bad decisions used to be absorbed by big organizations:

We think of the latest developments in mass communications as the most decisive, but the rituals of media hari-kari have been in place since Arthur Godfrey fired Julius LaRosa on the air in 1953. It took months back then, and a spirited defense by the network, before the public’s rejection of the formerly popular television host was fully manifested. But there’s no way to prove that the public response was any less immediate.

That’s true, but perhaps more important is the contemporary ability of media-based monitors to police reversals of bad decisions to make sure they stick, as evidenced by the many voices warning that Komen’s mea culpa on Planned Parenthood has fallen far short of a full restoration of the status quo ante.

And that’s also true of the fate of those individuals responsible for the Komen fiasco, as Baxter notes:

One of those participants was former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, who as the Komen executive most closely identified with the decision to cut off Planned Parenthood. Despite some efforts by Komen officials to distance her from the story, it’s hard to separate the vice president for public policy from the public policy. Whether she can hang on after the policy has been changed is one of the few unresolved questions, as this story speeds into the media sunset.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.