GOP front runner Herman Cain is battling against numerous allegations of sexual misconduct. He has taken a defiant stance and his numbers remain decent. A CBS News poll released this morning shows him still leading his two chief rivals, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Moreover, 61% of Republican primary voters say the accusations won't impact their vote. Of course, that leaves 39% to account for, so this story will continue.
You will note one name that was unmentioned in the previous paragraph – Rick Perry. His abominable performance at Wednesday's debate, where he actually forgot the identity of one of the three government departments he proposed to do away with if he were to become President – will serve as a prime example of how to derail any political campaign. His subsequent attempts to laugh off the incident, including an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, were not amusing. One of the most nerve-wracking periods in this country's history is not the time for a White House aspirant to prove he can make fun of himself.
The world of sports is providing a pair of noteworthy stories as well. As of this writing, the NBA players have been presented a deal by the owners. It really is a take-it-or-leave-it scenario, but the owners are making sure the public knows of the concessions they have made in the proposed accord. Essentially, they have put the onus on the players to save the season. Accept the deal and games resume in mid-December. Reject it and who do you think fans will mostly blame? The owners side – and Commissioner David Stern, in particular – have taken control of the message. The ball literally is in the players' court right now.
Perhaps the biggest story of the week is emanating from Penn State University. The allegations of gross sexual deviance perpetrated against young boys on the part of an ex-coach and the failure of many people in authority to act accordingly has put a stain on the school that will last a long time. In hopes of acting quickly and decisively, the school's board of trustees immediately fired legendary coach Joe Paterno for his failure to contact the police upon hearing of a specific incident. That move has been met by equal parts joy and disdain. Cars.com, it was reported this morning, has pulled its sponsorship of tomorrow's Penn State-Nebraska game. If there ever is a no-win situation, Penn State – which before this week had, over decades, built one of the best reputations in the nation only to see it crumble in a matter of hours – finds itself in one now.
Four very different crises, but all of them offer fascinating case studies in communications tactics. And each of these four stories is still to be written. We'll certainly be keeping a close eye.
Gideon Fidelzeid is the managing editor of PRWeek. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.