Salvation Army in anti-gay PR mess

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.

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