Top Ten PR Blunders of 2009

For some this was, as Queen Elizabeth might say, "annus horribilis" -- a horrible year. For the rest of us, it was another lesson in public relations crisis management.
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For some this was, as Queen Elizabeth might say, "annus horribilis" - a horrible year. For the rest of us, it was another lesson in public relations crisis management. Here are the Top 10 PR blunders of 2009:

10. Fox News Caught Using Fake Footage. To make it seem like a protest over health care reform was larger than it actually was; the lying liars over at FNC used footage from a previous protest on the National Mall. Jon Stewart played clips from both events, clearly showing that the network used archived footage from a better-attended rally on Sept. 12 (with green trees, cloudy skies) to show thousands of protesters taking to the streets in Washington, D.C, which took place in November that had fall trees and sunny skies.

9. Michael Steele, Human Gaffe Machine. The chairman of the GOP discovered a comfortable place for his foot all year long: his mouth. From his attempt to "urbanize" the Republican Party to his "strategic" use of the uttered gaffe, he has personified a political party that is lost far, far out in the woods.

8. Serena Williams' Outburst. After losing to Kim Clijsters at the US Open Semi-finals in September on a foot-fault call, the tennis powerhouse walked over to the diminutive judge and began berating her. "I swear to God, I'm [bleeping] taking this ball and I'm shoving it down your [bleeping] throat," Williams said. She was fined $10,000 for the outburst.

7. Tom Daschle's Tax Lax. Nominated as Obama's Secretary of Health and Human Services, Daschle was looked upon as a key player in the looming fight over health care reform. But in February, he withdrew his nomination in embarrassment, due to his neglect over paying taxes on the use of a chauffeur service. In 1999 Daschle stated that "tax cheaters cheat us all, and that the IRS should enforce our laws to the letter," only underlining the irony of his blunder.

6. Kanye West Interrupts. During the MTV Video Music Awards, Taylor Swift unexpectedly won for Best Female Video. As she was making her acceptance speech, West leaped up on stage, grabbed the mic from her and said, "Yo Taylor, I'm really happy for you, I'll let you finish, but Beyoncé has one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time!" He ruined Swift's moment and was quickly and roundly condemned by performers of all stripes, via the Twitter-verse. During an interview, the topic arose and President Obama commented that Swift seemed like perfectly nice person. "Why would he do that?" asked CNBC's John Harwood. "Because he's a jackass," Obama replied, to many laughs in the room. Nice call, Mr. President.

5. Balloon Boy Hoax. Richard Heene claimed his son had floated away in a home-made balloon. After a flight that lasted hours and was covered live on television, it landed about 12 miles from the Denver Airport. Once on the ground, the boy was not inside, so authorities began a manhunt of the area, raising fears that he had fallen from the balloon. Later that afternoon the he was reported to have been hiding at his house the entire time. Suspicions arose that the incident was a hoax following the Heene's interview on CNN. Responding to a question about why he was hiding, the boy said "You guys said that, um, we did this for the show." The Larimer County Sheriff announced the incident was indeed a hoax, and the parents would likely face several felony charges. Heene pleaded guilty to the charge of "attempting to influence a public servant."

4. Bobby Jindal Flops. It was supposed to be the governor of Louisiana's national coming out party: he was selected to give the GOP response to President Obama's first State of the Union speech. And little Bobby fell flat on his face. His reviews were harsh: "amateurish," "laughable" and, "a missed opportunity." On PBS, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks said, "to come up at this moment in history with a stale 'government is the problem,' 'we can't trust the federal government' - it's just a disaster for the Republican Party."

3. Gov. Mark Sanford's Hike Through the Appalachian Trail. Hey, you can't blame a guy for falling in love. It even happens to guys that are already married, and that much is none of our business. But when said guy is the governor of a state who leaves his duties behind (without telling his staff how he can be reached) to travel to South America to be with his lover, a few questions might come up. Mark Sanford (R-South Carolina), disappeared to Argentina several times to be with the woman he calls his "soul mate." Touching, but perhaps not to his wife, who recently filed for divorce. The funniest aspect of this is Sanford told his senior staff that he was going to be away and out of touch, "hiking on the Appalachian Trail" - which has now become code for "off boinking my mistress."

2. Rod Blagojevich Attempts to "Sell" Obama's Senate Seat. Illinois Democrat and Tammany Hall wannabe Blagojevich is caught trying to get cash for his appointment to fill Barack Obama's seat in the United States Senate. In possession of recorded phone conversations, the FBI will have none of it. "Blago" loses his job and still faces federal corruption charges. Meanwhile, Roland Burris is named to the seat, but that's an entirely different PR blunder from the get-go.

1. Tiger Woods' Fall From Grace. Few public figures have assumed such a carefully constructed persona only to have the bottom fall out so harshly. Woods' bevy of infidelities has caused huge damage to his reputation and will take time to fix. The good news is all he will have to do is win golf tournaments. The bad news is it takes a great deal of concentration to win at golf ... so for the moment, he is not in a good place. Walking away from the game is a smart move. Now he needs to shut up, make amends with his wife and stop with the waitresses and porn stars.

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