PR Play of the Week - Truth helps Kerrey avoid PR nightmare

NEW YORK: For more than three decades, which included his

unsuccessful run for president in 1992 and 16 years of public service in

Nebraska as governor and US Senator, the press were unaware that more

than 13 Vietnamese had been slain at Bob Kerrey's behest.



In 1969, Kerrey led a raid of the city of Thanh Phong in Vietnam's

Mekong Delta. Six Navy SEALs killed 13 civilians and Kerrey won a Bronze

Star for the raid, an award he often left off his official

biography.



The man who called former president Bill Clinton 'an unusually good

liar,' proved himself an unusually adept crisis PR manager, however.

Kerrey preempted the publication of a three-year New York Times

Magazine/60 Minutes II investigation with his own confessional press

conference in New York City days earlier. It earns him a PR Play of the

Week for getting out in front of a possible crisis.



Kerrey told Newsweek, which had sat on the news since 1998, that he

finally went public with his story to get ahead of what he anticipated

would be damaging press from The New York Times Magazine and 6o Minutes

II. The Times reporter had interviewed Gerhard Klann, a Kerrey

squad-mate who said Kerrey had ordered civilians rounded up and shot,

and 6o Minutes II had traveled to Vietnam to speak with Viet Cong

veteran Pham Tri, who said she saw the American fighters methodically

kill civilians.



Michael Powell, partner in Westhill Media Strategies, began work with

Kerrey a week in advance of The New York Times Magazine story. He called

the press conference a 'pre-emptive strike. This was not a PR strategy,'

Powell said. 'The goal was to tell the truth as best one can after 32

years.'



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