Anthony Weiner’s "Slutbag" Communications Director
Anthony Weiner’s Communications Director, Barbara Morgan, responded angrily yesterday to a former intern, Olivia Nuzzi, who had written negatively about the Weiner campaign.
According to Hunter Walker of Talking Points Memo: (Warning: Graphic language below)
“TPM called Weiner’s communications director Barbara Morgan to discuss an unrelated story Tuesday and she went off on a curse-filled rant about Nuzzi, describing her as a fame hungry “bitch” who “sucked” at her job. Morgan also called Nuzzi a “slutbag,” “twat,” and “cunt” while threatening to sue her.”
“It’s all bullshit,” she said. “I mean, it’s such bullshit. She could fucking — fucking twat.”
After this story blew up on social media last night, Morgan apologized, saying:
“In a moment of frustration, I used inappropriate language in what I thought was an off the record conversation. It was wrong and I am very sorry, which is what I said tonight when I called and emailed Olivia to apologize.”
There are a few separate issues here.
First, Morgan appears to have gone “off the record” without gaining the prior consent of the reporter.
Any communications director should know the risks of doing so and be a lot smarter about the times they do go off the record. This is a point even our most novice media training students seem to understand.
Read More: Eight Reasons You Shouldn’t Go Off The Record
Second, Morgan appears to be implying that the comments would have been more acceptable had they been made “off the record.”
That a communications professional would ever think it appropriate to use such language to attack a woman is outrageous. The fact that Ms. Morgan is a woman doesn’t give her license to use such misogynistic language to describe another woman. Even if the off the record agreement had been accepted by both sides, the dramatic nature of this exchange would have encouraged some reporters and editors to render the agreement null and void.
Third, and perhaps most odd, her response was totally disproportionate.
Yes, the intern in question, OIivia Nuzzi, wrote an unfavorable piece about the campaign, including a comment that suggested that Ms. Morgan—and others in the office—had a “short resume.” By responding to the piece with such graphic language, Morgan ensured Nuzzi’s piece would receive even more coverage. Her response should have been calmly dismissive.
With any other candidate, Morgan would be fired immediately. Given that Anthony Weiner is her boss, it wouldn’t be surprising if this politically depressing and ever-sordid drama continues to drag on.
Update, July 31, 2013, 8:30 p.m.
I appeared on The Crisis Show with crisis pro Rich Klein earlier tonight to discuss Ms. Morgan’s contribution to the latest Anthony Weiner scandal. The video is below.
What do you think? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
I think this happens often… Campaign directors or other PR professionals feel “comfortable” enough with a member of the media and rant like that. Not excusable though. She should be fired but like you said her boss is Weiner. Think before you talk!
When incidents like this happen, it gives reputable PR/communications/spokespeople a bad name. Aside from showing little class, Ms. Morgan demonstrated that she knows little about how to deal with the media. Saying “I thought that was off the record” is a poor excuse. The good spokespeople know it’s rarely an effective strategy to go off the record. They also know that if they do go off the record, then it’s to convey information — not to launch expletives.
Constraining my comments to only what I read in this post, it is amazing to me that anyone in a communications profession would utter or write any words which couldn’t become public. Being comfortable and even friendly with the media doesn’t mean you should ever let your guard down, if not for your client then for your own career longevity.
What if she had phrased her “apology tweet” like this:
“In a moment of frustration, I used inappropriate language, even for what I thought was an off the record conversation. It was wrong and I am very sorry, which is what I said tonight when I called and emailed Olivia to apologize.”
At this point, what advice would you have for her?
Honestly, I think the best thing she could do is resign. The longer she stays on, the more negative headlines it will generate for both her and the Weiner campaign. More selfishly, she should be thinking about her long-term reputation, which will likely be enhanced by getting out of the headlines as quickly as possible.
Short of that, she did the right thing by apologizing directly to the former intern.
Thanks for writing!
Great post! This is nitpicking, but you wrote “That a communications professional would ever think it appropriate to use such language to attack a woman is outrageous.” Actually, it would be outrageous for any individual to attack anyone, regardless of gender, with the language she used.
Fair point, and you’re right.
Still, I think that’s especially true for a communications professional, who might reasonably be held to a higher standard since it’s their job to know better. But again, you’re right – the same rules should apply to all of us, regardless of profession.
Thanks for writing!
Well said and sage advice to be sure.
One small suggestion: replace the word “inferring” with “implying.” I can imply seething but you infer something from what I was implying. Sorry to quibble about such minutiae in such a well worded post.
Thank you for your comment – I’ve made that change. I appreciate the small “quibble” — I try to get these things right, and am always open to making a correction when I don’t!
I think the tail is wagging the dog here. I saw this story online and my first thought was, “I swear, Brad’s got this campaign on his payroll just so he has stuff to write about!”
If I have learned nothing else from studiously following this blog, it is to know a major media disaster when I see one.
Even if I admitted to the powers you granted me, I have to admit I lack the sense of creativity to come up with such a bizarre scandal. This is truly stranger than fiction! 🙂
Thank you for being such a long-time reader. You’ve been with me since the beginning!