Archived Story

A timely tale about dealing with scandal

Published 3:50pm Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Speaking From Experience

By Jack Strayer

At the request of the editor, my monthly column now has an official name:  “Speaking from Experience.”

To give you an example of why I chose this, I am sharing with you an episode in my career as the Michigan House of Representatives press secretary, a position I held from 1980-1986.

One very snowy morning in 1984, I got one of those dreaded 3 a.m. phone calls.  It was from a popular State Representative who had been arrested for soliciting an undercover Lansing policewoman.  He was calling from his lawyer’s downtown Lansing office and asked if I would meet with them…right now!

I dressed quickly and drove over to the law office.  The State Rep had clearly been crying and had just spoken with his wife who was back home in his Upper Peninsula district.

I asked why he did it and he very frankly explained to me that he had not seen his wife in three weeks because of the legislative schedule and the harsh weather.  He told me he physically missed her and was deeply remorseful about his rash decision to find companionship.  I wrote it all down – word for word – and read it back to him.

“This is your official statement and I will deliver it to the Capitol Press corps mailboxes in the Capitol Building.”

His lawyer questioned the advisability of this and I explained to him that all reporters look at the police blotter each morning to see what had transpired overnight.

His client’s statement would answer all their questions regarding his arrest.

By noon that morning, there were no media calls and the arrest was not being reported.

The Detroit News bureau chief met me after work and congratulated me – and the State Representative – for telling the truth, protecting the faithful wife, getting ahead of the story and dealing with the potential scandal in a responsible manner.

“No one will touch that story now,” he advised me.  “It’s only news if you lie and stonewall.”

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