The mayor of Huntingdon, a small town outside of Montreal, Quebec, recently stated – with much enthusiasm – on his radio talk show that he enjoys running over cats with his truck.
“First of all, cats have no business being in the road. If it’s a stray cat in the road, BANG, I accelerate! […] The other day I backed up over a newborn and I’m sure it didn’t feel a thing. The pickup passed over him like it was nothing.”
What a lovely thing for an elected town mayor to do and publicly state with such enthusiasm.
Once the town and other Quebecers got wind of Stéphane Gendron’s disgusting behaviours, an online petition was created and the Montreal SPCA is now looking into whether or not his words had truth to them, since bringing harm to animals is a criminal act in Quebec. Social media, of course, was another channel where Huntingdon residents and Quebecers rose up to voice their disgust and discontent with the Mayor.
After all of this, Gendron issued an open letter “apology” that consists of 5 long paragraphs that focus on defending his position on the too-many stray cats living in Huntingdon. Only the very last 2 sentences of his “apology” actually sort of, kind of have some semblance of an apology for his “unacceptable humoristic tone”.
Admitting to maliciously killing cats in his town and not even fully apologizing for his behaviour or for his insensitivity is quite shocking coming from anybody – let alone an elected official. This is just another case of someone not thinking before they speak publicly, and not understanding the need for crisis communications training and planning.
However, this is also a great example of sticking your foot in your mouth so deep that all the crisis communications and crisis management in the world probably wouldn’t save you. When things like this are done they cannot be taken back and I will be interested in watching where Gendron will go from here. I’d be surprised if he was reelected.
It seems that Quebec has seen their share of crisis communications and crisis management fails this month. It may be time to get on track and realize the need for some serious crisis planning and training. What do you think?
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.
KC Saling says
Wait…what?? Decent people spread the word to spay and neuter your pets and promote animal shelters. They don't take joy in running over animals! Wow. Those are the kind of people I practice my Liam Neeson speech for: "I don't have a lot of money, but I have a very particular set of skills, skills that make me a nightmare for people like you." Grrrrr!
Melissa Agnes says
This Mayor actually passed a bylaw stating that all cats in the town MUST be spayed and neutered, otherwise the owners will be fined. He clearly does not like cats. His actions and "sense of humour" are just disgusting.
I hope no one with even a whit of crisis management experience will have anything to do with him, no matter how much he offers to pay. Some jerks just don't deserve our help.
Melissa Agnes says
You're absolutely right, and even if they did, I doubt it would help. People are who they are and he has lifted the veil to show us who he is.
P.S. Although I agree (to some extent) with the first part of your message, I chose not to publish it because it was a little too vivid for the types of conversations I encourage here on my blog. But I'm always happy to hear your thoughts and sentiments on the topics I publish about 😉
Nancy Dinnigan says
I am originally from this region and am horrified. For a public official to advocate causing suffering and painful death to a living creature presents a dreadful example. This is beyond the assistance of crisis management; he needs a different kind of help. In reading his open letter, I find it difficult to be sure whether his comments were really in jest. If so, it's a very sick sort of humour but I'm not convinced that he was fully kidding. It was a justification, not an apology, which suggests he did not feel he had anything for which to apologize except the public response to his lack of judgment.
Melissa Agnes says
As you say, Nancy, it was an explanation (and excuses) not an apology – far from it. I heard his statements on the radio show and I heard his enthusiasm and I have no doubt that his honesty lies within those words. Now I look forward to watching and seeing what comes of it all – if criminal charges will be pressed and if the people of Huntingdon will vote him out.