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.