School of Communications
faculty member John Guiniven wrote an op-ed column for the July
11 edition of the Greensboro News & Record. The piece, headlined
"Three Examples of the Art of Avoiding Responsibility,"
focuses on public statements made by Enron executive Ken Lay, former
President Bill Clinton, former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno
and current Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
society," Guiniven writes, "it seems one way to avoid
responsibility is to accept responsibility. Illogical, yes, but
in an era where the words of public officials are often intended
to obfuscate rather than inform, it is becoming a commonplace manuever
for the rich and powerful who find themselves embroiled in imbroglios."
in journalism as a reporter and bureau chief with UPI, in government
as press secretary to Sen. Robert C. Byrd and in business as director
of communications for International Paper Co. and director of corporate
public relations for Chrysler. He brings his political and public
relations experience to this article, stating that there are many
strategies for image restoration, including the explanation of provocation,
putting the problem into a beneficial context, attacking the accuser
and accepting responsibility. "The preferred strategy is denial,"
he writes. "But unless the denial is legitimate, unless you
really are innocent, it is just a lie that is quickly found out.
Just ask Bill Clinton, who used and reused all the image-restoration
strategies throughout his presidency (and runs the gamut again in
his just-out autobiography)."
out that American leaders are expected to accept responsibility,
but this "works long-term only if the contrition is sincere
and is accompanied by atonement ... Lay and Rumsfeld, like Reno
before them, missed that part of the equation."