By Gina F. Rubel
Special to the Legal
What do divorce, homicide and sexually deviant behavior have in common in today’s media? It all makes for hot news but bad media interviews for clients in high-profile cases. That’s the bottom line.
Gary Giordano, Kris Humphries and Jerry Sandusky are three men who are all currently involved in unrelated, high-profile court cases. Giordano is the sole suspect in the high-profile disappearance case of American Robyn Gardner in Aruba. Humphries is involved in a public divorce battle with reality TV star Kim Kardashian. Sandusky, as the world knows, is the former Penn State University assistant football coach involved in the highly publicized child sex abuse case. All three have come under criticism for their alleged deviant and criminal behavior, not to mention their recent media interviews that appeared stiff, insincere and all-around unconvincing.
Giordano appeared twice on “Good Morning America” to defend himself with Jose Baez, the famous Casey Anthony attorney, by his side. He seemed unable to clearly answer questions as to why he and Gardner were snorkeling when Gardner was known to hate swimming, why he became suddenly distressed in the water and swam for shore, and why he waited over an hour to report Gardner as a missing person to the local authorities. Giordano has been criticized for coming off as unemotional and heartless in his interviews. However, a possible defense tactic was made public to create doubt that perhaps Gardner was abducted by human traffickers from Venezuela, which is only a 30-minute boat ride away. Hmmm. I wonder.
From a media relations perspective, when a high-profile individual answers questions with the same answer verbatim, over and over again, it becomes clear that the person isn’t speaking for himself. It’s an issue of credibility. We saw this with the recent Kris Humphries interview on “Good Morning America.” He repeated the same statement over and over again when asked pointed questions regarding his divorce from Kim Kardashian. Humphries appeared unnatural and stiff with unemotional body language. He repeated a canned statement that, in my opinion, diminished his credibility.
The most baffling media interview is that of Jerry Sandusky regarding the various counts of child molestation he is facing. From a public relations perspective it’s hard to understand why Sandusky’s attorney, Joseph L. Amendola, would allow him to speak in public.
During a telephone interview on NBC's "Rock Center" on Nov. 14 with Bob Costas, Sandusky said he was not guilty of the criminal charges against him, but recognized that he did engage in inappropriate behavior with children, including taking showers with boys. Later, in a partially videotaped interview with the New York Times, it is clear that Amendola was directing Sandusky’s comments for clarification.
While Amendola has a long-standing reputation as a well-known criminal defense attorney, he, too, has been caught up in media firestorms in the past. It is going to be interesting to see how the Sandusky case plays out in the end. At least they made one very smart decision: to waive Sandusky’s preliminary hearing Tuesday.
It is important for attorneys to learn how to manage the media message. Sometimes it is better just to say that while the matter remains in the courts, you are going to refrain from “trying the case in the court of public opinion.” At least that’s better than saying, “no comment.” In these cases, even I might say “no comment” would have been better than the statements made by Gary Giordano, Kris Humphries and Jerry Sandusky.
Gina F. Rubel is the owner of Furia Rubel Communications Inc., a public relations and marketing agency with a niche in legal communications. A former Philadelphia trial attorney, public relations and marketing expert, she is the author of Everyday Public Relations for Lawyers. She and her PR and marketing firm have won numerous awards for legal communications, public relations, media relations, web and graphic design, strategic planning and leadership. She maintains a blog at www.ThePRLawyer.com, is a contributor to National Law Review, The Legal Intelligencer Blog and The Huffington Post. You can find her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter.