The Week In Bad Communication
ABOVE PHOTO: George Zimmerman (L) and Celebrity chef Paula Deen (R) appears on NBC News’ “Today” show, wednesday, June 26, 2013 in New York. Deen dissolved into tears during a “Today” show interview Wednesday about her admission that she used a racial slur in the past.
(AP photo) (AP Photo/NBC, Peter Kramer)
By Denise Clay
The Mad (Political) scientist
Last week was one of those weeks where it seemed as if news was coming out of the woodwork.
From the Supreme Court deciding that a key provision of the Voting Rights Act was no longer needed despite a seemingly endless trail of evidence to the contrary to another Court decision that guarantees I’ll be invited to some really FABULOUS weddings in the not-to-distant future, it was a memorable week for news junkies.
But there were two events that everyone had their eye on and had an opinion about. One involved the trial of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin. We were introduced to Alicia Stanley, Trayvon’s stepmother, who helped raise him for 14 years, but hasn’t been heard from much.
The second was the revelation that Paula Deen, a personal favorite of us here at The Mad (political) Scientist, had not only called someone the N-word at least once, which as a 66-year-old woman from Albany, Ga. didn’t surprise me a whole lot, but had also looked at planning a plantation-style wedding for her brother Bubba, and had been a lot less than fair to her African American employees.
(And she’s a friend of former President Jimmy Carter’s! I wonder if he knew about this?!)
Now the reason that I’m singling out these two incidents is because they are examples of what happens when you communicate poorly or worse yet HIRE people who communicate poorly. While everyone has taken shots at poor Rachel Jeantel for giving us attitude on the witness stand in the Zimmerman trial, I submit that between the Martin family and Paula Deen and company, there was enough ill communication for Jeantel, who is literate in three languages, to make everyone else look stupid.
I’ll start with the fact that Alicia Stanley wound up on AC 360 in the first place.
Stanley helped raise Trayvon Martin for nearly 15 years when she was married to his father, Tracy. They broke up shortly before Trayvon’s death, but since she had been a part of the young man’s life since he was 3, she saw him as a son.
“I raised him along with my two girls,” she told Cooper on CNN last week.
But what made Stanley come on national television was the fact that she felt her contribution to Trayvon’s life had been dismissed. She wasn’t allowed to sit in the front row at his funeral. She wasn’t being told anything about the trial.
She was being made to feel like she didn’t exist, Stanley said.
There was no communication.
So Stanley tearfully put the Martin Family Business out in the street.
Like, for example, she says that Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s natural mother, wasn’t as involved in her son’s life as she’s being made out to be now. When Trayvon felt sick or needed to talk, he came to Stanley, not his mom.
My guess is that right about now Tracy Martin, who really comes off as kind of a cad here, and Sybrina Fulton, who comes off as someone who didn’t show up until the cameras, lawyers, and fame showed up, can see Alicia Stanley from space.
But you know what could have kept all of this from happening?
If Tracy Martin had kept his second ex-wife in the loop about her stepson, she wouldn’t have felt the need to go to Anderson Cooper. If he had let her sit in the front row and mourn Trayvon’s passing, she never would have been sitting across from the host of the one show on CNN that people actually watch telling her story.
A simple daily phone call, a little extra thought, and a little finesse could have kept Alicia Stanley out of the public eye...and could have kept the Martin Family from having to put a steak over it’s black one...
But lest you think that poor communication is strictly the parlance of blended families with lower middle-class bank accounts, may I submit Paula Deen for your approval?
Until earlier this week, Deen was the host of the only show that my Significant Other and I could watch together on Food Network, Paula’s Home Cooking.
But now, she’s out of work. Real out of work.
Not only has Food Network sent her packing, but Wal-Mart, Target, Sears, K-Mart, Smithfield Hams, QVC, Norvo Nordisk, Walgreens, JC Penney, and even her publisher Ballantine Books have told Ms. Paula to go play on I-76, despite, in the case of Ballantine Books, Deen’s new cookbook hitting number one in pre-order sales on Amazon.com.
While Norvo Nordisk and QVC promise to revisit their relationship with Deen once everything dies down, everybody else has torn up the contracts and moved along.
The center of Deen’s problems is a lawsuit that was filed by Lisa Jackson, a former employee in Deen’s brother Bubba Hiers’s restaurant. In the suit, which was filed against Deen and Hiers (because Deen was a co-owner), Jackson accuses Hiers of sexual harassment, racism and mistreatment of African American employees.
What ended up getting Deen in trouble was a National Enquirer article that detailed her deposition in this lawsuit, which contained the admission that she had used the N word at least once and had advocated a special kind of wedding for her brother, who liked to watch porn while at work...
From the deposition...
“[W]hen asked if she wanted black men to play the role of slaves at a wedding she explained she got the idea from a restaurant her husband at dined at saying, “The while entire waiter staff was middle-aged black men, and they had on beautiful white jackets with a black bow tie. I mean, it was really impressive. That restaurant represented a certain era in America...after the Civil War, during the Civil War, before the Civil War...It was not only black men, it was black women...I would say they were slaves.”
Can we talk about how this info. came out on Juneteenth, the day celebrated as the day that the slaves in Texas learned they had been emancipated...?
And then there were the videos.
First there was an interview with the New York Times that introduced us to Deen’s “Black friend.”, whom she described by saying ‘He’s as black as this board...”
I had to rewind that to make sure that I wasn’t hearing things.
And then there were the two videos she did instead of going on the Today Show like the Food Network told her to...which were pretty bad.
Finally, Deen went on Today, probably at the behest of her new PR guru, Judy Smith.
For those of you who don’t know who Smith is, she’s the person you bring in when you’ve screwed up so badly that the level of screwed you are borders on grotesque. She’s worked with the first President Bush, Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback Michael Vick, President Bill Clinton’s jump-off Monica Lewinsky, and others.
She’s also the inspiration for the character of Olivia Pope of the television show Scandal.
And scandal kind of describes Deen’s Today appearance, which was not one of Smith’s finest hours...
My personal favorite part was where she invites anyone who hasn’t said a hurtful remark to throw a boulder at her head and kill her.
Of course, the Internet, as it tends to do responded...A video of Deen’s appearance on Today, complete with boulder hitting her in the head, has been making the rounds.
I know, I know. That’s dead wrong. Funny. Not nearly as funny as #PaulasBestDishes or #PaulaDeenTVShows on Twitter, but funny. And wrong. Dead wrong.
But Deen probably wouldn’t be dealing with ripped up contracts, Internet memes, and accusations of racism if she didn’t have the dumbest PR and legal staffs perhaps in the world...pre-Judy Smith that is...
First of all, if her PR staff had let her do the initial Today Show interview instead of two very bad videos, a move that Food Network cited as it’s reason for sending Deen on her way, she might have been able to clear this up.
But secondly, if her legal staff would have said the following sentence to Lisa Jackson, the deposition and all that’s come after it could have been avoided. That sentence: “Let’s settle this out of court.”
Contrary to rumor, people who file a lawsuit aren’t nearly as gung-ho about going to court as you might think. What they really want is compensation of some sort, acknowledgement that you screwed up, and a promise that you’ll do better.
My guess is that Jackson would have been willing to compromise if someone would have communicated to her a willingness to do the same.
Instead, Deen is looking at a empire in tatters. Granted, she should also be looking at beating the mess out of her little brother, but that’s just me.
Now President Carter, who weighed in just as I was writing this, says that Deen should apologize, tell folks about her community service, and otherwise keep her head up.
Bur if he really wants to help his friend, he’ll teach her how to communicate.
Seems like there’s a need for that going around...