Friday, June 12, 2009

A lesson to all in the public eye: the public will, by and large, forgive mistakes. That is, provided they are legitimately explainable, and if the party responsible offers sincere – and TIMELY – regrets, apologies and/or contrition. Federal Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt had the first part in spades, when inadvertently taped comments she made in a private conversation with her now-former press secretary came to light this week. Many media commentators, from CFRB’s Bill Carroll to the Toronto Sun’s Lorrie Goldstein to even Chantal Hebert at the Star (normally not one to take the side of a Conservative cabinet minister) remarked that Raitt’s description of the crisis in supply of nuclear isotopes critical to cardiac and cancer care as a “sexy” issue wasn’t much different than how such life-and-death issues are discussed among the nation’s journalists. Though blunt, her comments were explainable, principally since they were made within the confines of what was only ever intended to be a private, confidential discussion with an aide, and never designed for public consumption. Her ultimate apology, in which she teared-up in front of reporters while speaking of her father’s death from colon cancer and the loss of her brother to cancer of the lung, was heartfelt and sincere. But the 24 hours between, during which Raitt (with the apparent backing of Prime Minister Stephen Harper) refused to apologize for any offence taken, still warrants a Fumble. The minister was in a crisis communications situation, and one which could have been a lot less rocky (well, in some aspects, anyway) had she promptly offered an apology to those who took offence – however unintended – at what she said.

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