NEW YORK: Former senator Bob Kerrey hired Westhill Media Strategies
for a media offensive to help get ahead of a damaging story about his
involvement in the death of civilians during the Vietnam war.
The crisis media firm, which also advises Jesse Jackson, was brought in
just a week before a New York Times Magazine cover story on Kerrey,
published on Sunday, April 28.
The Times linked up with CBS' 60 Minutes II, which also aired the story
Both outlets presented sources which allege that Kerrey gave the orders
to round up villagers including women and children. Kerrey contends his
squad was fired upon and merely returned fire. Members of his squad were
rounded up to back up his claim.
Michael Powell, a partner in Westhill, says he thought it 'disgraceful'
that 60 Minutes II refused to include these people in their story. 'It
is surreal if five people say it didn't happen and that the one person
(who disagrees) gets as much credence.'
Powell worked closely with Westhill crisis comms experts John Scanlon
and Ed Reilly.
Former Kerrey spokesman, Mike McCurry, said that although the 60 Minutes
II piece was tough, Kerrey's performance was heartfelt. 'I think Kerrey
came across very well,' said McCurry. 'He was very honest. I don't think
anyone needs to spin this one.'
Westhill found itself in the spotlight recently when it counseled
Jesse Jackson as news of his illegitimate child broke.
- See PR Play of the Week, p. 2.