WASHINGTON: The Salvation Army had already been preparing for an
eventual PR crisis over an arrangement it had made with the White House
when a Washington Post story last week accused the charity of agreeing
to support President Bush's Charitable Choice legislation in exchange
for the right to discriminate against gays.
Xenophon Communications, a crisis firm on retainer with the Salvation
Army, was preparing a PR strategy for the fall, when it expected the
story to become public. But when a Salvation Army internal document
outlining its discussions with the White House was leaked to the Post,
Xenophon had to jump-start its efforts.
The Post article claimed the Salvation Army had agreed to publicly
support Bush's Charitable Choice legislation, which allows charitable
agencies to receive federal funds for civic efforts, if Bush would issue
a regulation protecting such charities from state and city efforts to
force them to hire gays and offer domestic partner benefits.
Xenophon president David Fuscus compared the volume of press calls
regarding the Post story to what is typical after a plane crash. "We had
three spokespeople yesterday working for 14 hours," he said. Internal
Salvation Army PR staff referred all calls to Xenophon.
The Bush administration distanced itself from the controversy. Both
sides denied there had been any quid pro quo.