Last week, controversy arose when Obama’s children, Sasha and Malia dressed somewhat casually at the annual Turkey pardoning. While most people don’t see that as being a big deal, Elizabeth Lauten, communication director for Rep. Stephen Fincher, seemed to have taken their outfit choices to heart.
Instead of keeping her opinion to herself, or just letting teenagers be teenagers, she decided to do the ultimate rookie mistake and rant to her Facebook followers:
Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play. Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department. Nevertheless, stretch yourself. Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised public events.
Here are a few of many mistakes Lauten made in this Facebook post:
- She ranted publicly on Facebook.
- She insulted the president’s daughters
- She insulted the president himself and the first lady
Soon after the post was made, the heat was completely turned away from the Obama girls and blazed towards Elizabeth Lauten. She later told NBC News that she would resign Monday, and has done so.
She quickly made her Facebook profile private and posted an apology:
Many quickly took to social media to talk about how she failed spectacularly at her apology. The main points that people seemed to take issue with is that it lacked empathy, it did not show that she even understood that what she did was wrong. She did nothing to actually apologize to Sasha and Malia or the presidential-family as a whole.
Pro Tip: When you are apologizing to someone, particularly online, remind yourself that they are actually people and think about how you would want to be apologized to. You have to apologize directly to who you have offended or bashed, and acknowledge that you have made a mistake.
I would like to focus on a particular part of her apology:
“[…] I would never have wanted to be judged myself as a teenager.”
As it seems, people wanted to do just that and make her feel what it’s like to be judged on something you did in your teenage years.
The DailyMail reports that Elizabeth Lauten was arrested twice in her teenage years. Once at the age of 17 for shoplifting from a department store and was charged in 2000 with misdemeanor larceny. The charges were eventually dropped. Public record also shows that she was ticketed at age 19 for speeding and running a red light in Virginia.
People of the Internet also took what she said into their own hands by finding photos of the younger Elizabeth Lauten partaking in underage drinking and even taking some shots at the former President George W. Bush’s daughters as well as Sarah Palin’s family.
The takeaway here is very clear.
When criticizing others, be aware that you have your own closet full of skeletons that others will seek to open. The Internet is a powerful tool and it can and will be used against you when the time is right.
Apologies must always be sincere and contrite. People can sense insincerity and will scrutinize you for it. Make sure you own up to your mistake and don’t try to play it off into something else.
Think twice before you post. In the case of Elizabeth Lauten, she should have thought twice about what she posts, particularly because of her position in the United States government and who she was attacking. If you decide to criticize someone, choose your words wisely.
As a communication director, it is a shame that Elizabeth Lauten did not consider these basic public relations rules when she posted her opinion. Unfortunately, she had to resign from her position and has officially been indoctrinated into the PR Fail Hall of Fame.
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