The Jian Ghomeshi scandal is an interesting crisis to watch unfold. Not only do new facts keep coming to light, but there is an important lesson to learn from Ghomeshi’s own actions within this crisis.
Editor’s note: This post discusses this scandal from a crisis management standpoint only. Within this post, I will not specifically discuss the allegations of sexual abuse against Ghomeshi. However, I would like to say that, as a result of this situation, the hashtag #BeenRapedNeverReported has begun to trend, opening up a very needed discussion around this type of unacceptable conduct and abuse, and empowering women to come forth rather than stay silent. This editor’s note is an attempt to continue to spread the reach of this important conversation.
The story of the Jian Ghomeshi scandal
On October 26, 2014, Jian Ghomeshi published a 1,500+ word statement to his Facebook page. Within this statement, he described the situation that has led to his dismissal from CBC, where he has been the host of the show “Q” for nearly eight years. In his recount, he paints himself as a victim of a defamation attack by an ex-girlfriend and claims that the CBC dismissed him for “the risk of the perception that may come from a story that could come out.”
For those of you interested in reading his full statement, here’s his public post:
With just this information, we have a story of a man who is claiming to have been victimized by a vengeful ex-girlfriend, and a David vs. Goliath type story that could have won him support within the court of public opinion – and did, until the rest of the story came out…
More to the story
To date, at least nine woman have come forth, making allegations against Ghomeshi that he beat and abused them without warning, sometimes during sex. Additionally, CBC has come forth with their statement and recount of what actually transpired behind closed doors with Ghomeshi over the past few months.
As more and more facts come to light, it appears that Ghomeshi was not fully transparent and truthful within his original statement, as he claimed to be. This became even more evident when Navigator, the crisis management firm he hired to help him manage this crisis, dropped him as a client with the following statement:
“Regrettably, the circumstances of our engagement have changed and we are no longer able to continue.”
The biggest lesson to learn from this crisis
As the details continue to come out, there is a major crisis management lesson that needs to be learned from this scandal:
The truth cannot be hidden
In many ways, the magnitude of this crisis that Ghomeshi is facing is self-inflicted (and I’m not referring to the fact that he may be guilty of the accusations held against him). The self-infliction lies within his deceptions. It appears that he was not completely forthright about this situation with CBC for the past several months, which led to his dismissal; it appears that he was not completely honest with his crisis management firm, which may have led to him now needing to clean up this mess on his own – or with another agency; and it appears that he was not completely honest with his fans, supporters and the general public in the post that he himself decided to publish as the truth to this story.
Ghomeshi attempted to get ahead of the news cycle by being the first to release a statement and “the whole story”. Perhaps he thought that if he did this, the allegations against him would either go away or would not be perceived as the truth from the general public and thus, would not negatively impact his reputation. He used many words to paint himself as the victim of this story, which is now biting him.
The lesson: Hiding facts is never the right course of action. Especially when you come forth first and claim to be completely honest and transparent.
The bottom line
The truth always comes out today. There’s no hiding or avoiding it. And if you’re perceived has being less than truthful (especially in an attempt to shape the story to your advantage) you will instantly lose all trust, credibility and chance of managing the crisis with your reputation in tack. Point final.
Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.