Is "I’m Going To Rehab" Still A Viable PR Strategy?

Anthony Weiner is the latest in a long line of politicians who screwed up and quickly announced he or she is “going to rehab.” Here’s a brief list of a few who came before him:

  • In 2006, former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) entered rehab after crashing his car into a Capitol Hill barricade.
  • In 2006, former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) entered rehab after sending explicit emails to underage boys working as Congressional pages.
  • In 2007, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom (D-CA) entered rehab after having an affair with his campaign manager’s wife.
  • In 2008, former Governor Eliot Spitzer (D-NY) entered therapy for sex addiction after being caught using a prostitute.

Anthony Weiner is entering rehab after his sexting scandal.

That’s just Washington. Hollywood has a long line of scandal-plagued stars who have also entered rehab, from Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears to Mel Gibson and Kelsey Grammer.

I’m a big believer in therapy and serious rehabilitation programs, and many of the people I’ve named above clearly needed an intervention. This article isn’t intended to disparage the profession of psychological counseling or those who seek it out. I admire those who have the strength to call upon professional help when they need it most.

Rather, this article is about the public relations benefit those in public life seek by publicly announcing their intention to go to rehab. At one point, probably not long ago, going to rehab was a viable tactic to help get a public figure off the front pages by admitting weakness and seeking help.

But in a case like Anthony Weiner’s, it’s impossible not to question his motives for seeking therapy,  announced within hours of calls for his resignation from the Democratic House Leadership. His previous lies call into question whether he’s entering rehab to deal with an obvious problem, or whether it’s a ploy intended to buy time and forestall resignation.

So all of that leads to this question:

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UPDATE: Numerous sources are saying Mr. Weiner will resign later today. That still doesn’t change the main question in this article, as it’s impossible to know whether his announcement to enter rehab was originally motivated by a desire to buy time.

Please weigh in! What do you think of rehab being used as a PR tactic? 

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