America’s entertainment industry has been left reeling from the #MeToo movement. But that hasn’t stopped many of the high-profile men it has toppled from planning their comebacks.
Talkshow host Charlie Rose was fired by CBS and PBS in November after he was accused of groping colleagues and walking around naked in front of them, allegations he denies. Last month, he was reported to have been pitching a new atonement TV series in which he interviews other accused men like him, according to Page Six.
Celebrity chef Mario Batali took a leave of absence after he was accused by multiple women of inappropriate and abusive behaviour. After apologising, he has been “eyeing a second act”, according to the New York Times. Friends and associates say he is “pondering timelines” as to how he might step back into his career just months after it imploded, including by “creating a new company led by a powerful woman chief executive”.
Former Today Show co-host Matt Lauer, comedian Louis CK, and former public radio host Garrison Keillor are also all reported to be looking for redemption. Keillor’s attorney told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: “The mission is to get his train back on track.”
For the accused, there are people who can help them to rehabilitate their reputations – for a price.
There are more than 230,000 public relations professionals in the United States, according to government figures, and business is booming for those who specialize in crisis management. “I’ve gotten more calls in the last month than I did in all of last year,” one PR guru told an industry publication in November, as the #MeToo allegations against former movie producer Harvey Weinstein and other high-profile men emerged last year.
When famous people get in trouble, their first call is often to a spin doctor. These experts can advise them on how best to respond, work to protect their image and, eventually, help them plot a course towards recovery.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had anything quite like this,” said Andrew Blum, the founder of AJB Communications, a PR firm specialising in crisis management.
“Yes, women will have a say about whether these men will come back and what they can do, there’s no question,” Blum said. “But eventually some of these men may have something to add to society, and maybe PR has to help them.”
However, the likelihood of rehabilitating a reputation depends on the severity of the alleged offence, and whether there is a pattern to accusations.
“In some cases, the advice would be: ‘you need a reality check’ – there’s not going to be a comeback,” said Evan Nierman, founder of crisis PR firm Red Banyan, adding that he would advise some prospective clients to just go and enjoy their wealth on a beach somewhere.
“I don’t think there’s going to be a comeback for Harvey Weinstein,” he added.
In New York on Friday, Weinstein was charged with rape, a criminal sex act, sex abuse and sexual misconduct for alleged incidents involving two separate women. His lawyer said he would plead not guilty. Comedian Bill Cosby, who was convicted of sexual assault last month, turns 81 in July and is facing the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison.
But there are many other disgraced men whose behavior falls somewhere in the vast gray area between unacceptable and criminal. Their fates won’t be decided by a court of law, but in the court of public opinion.
One of Weinstein’s lawyers says she believes that forum is in many ways the tougher one.
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SOURCE: The Guardian, Lucia Graves