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Arts, Sports & Culture

Local Perspectives on Celebrity Scandal and Damage Control

Long considered one of America’s most beloved comedians, Bill Cosby is scheduled to perform in Pittsburgh this coming February. However, Cosby has been receiving a lot of negative press lately for allegations of sexual misconduct.

He is the latest in a long line of childhood heroes and lovable icons mired in scandal.

Pop culture contributor Joe Wos shared a brief history of celebrity scandal, from 1920’s silent movie actor Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, to kiddie-show icons Paul Reubens, known by many as Pee-wee Herman and Kevin Clash, who played Elmo on Sesame Street for almost 30 years.

Wos says Reubens is a great example of someone who managed to turn his negative public image around after the scandal broke. He says that’s partially because Reubens’ crime was victimless.

But for celebrities like Cosby, who portray themselves on TV and in real life, as having a higher moral standing, Wos says when those people fall from grace, “I hate to say that there’s some enjoyment in it but there is a sense that he was put in his place. When you set yourself up to lead by example, you better be Mr. Rogers.”

Damage Control

Considering the media’s obsession with the cult of celebrity and scandal, is it any wonder that American TV viewers have become obsessed with the ABC drama “Scandal”? Millions watch Olivia Pope “handle” and “fix” the reputations and images of high profile clients each Thursday night.

But in real life what does it take to repair one’s image after falling from grace?

Saul Markowitz, president of Markowitz Communications navigates us through the basics of public relations damage control. Saul points out that TV news pundits love to talk about “spinning the truth” which he says essentially means “to lie.”

Like Joe Wos, Saul points out that Bill Cosby had built a brand for himself as a TV Dad.

But now. “The problem Cosby is having is, he’s not saying enough.” says Saul. “I tell this to my clients all the time, just come out and tell the truth. And stop saying ‘no comment’ all the time.” If the media says they’d like to have a comment and his client doesn’t know how to respond, Saul says the best thing to do is say “I’ll get back to you,” but be sure to get back to them. Above all else, Saul says, ”Don’t let someone else tell your story.”

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