Tips on Talking to the Public About School Controversy

By Nora Carr

With Democrats in an historic fight-to-the-finish battle and Republicans wondering how a career maverick came back so quickly to take the lead for the presidential nomination, mudslinging has gone nuclear.

For politicians, the message is clear: Fight back or risk being “Swift-boated” like John Kerry, whose presidential campaign sank when attack ads -- later proved false -- said the war hero lied about his service in Vietnam.

“You can’t just let this stuff go anymore,” says Gary Pearce, a political consultant and public relations expert. “You have to respond.”

Hillary Clinton, battle-hardened by years of politics, clearly knows what’s at stake. When news anchor David Shuster said the family had “pimped out” daughter Chelsea, Clinton’s campaign was outraged and threatened to boycott MSNBC’s presidential debates.

Shuster was suspended and quickly apologized, along with NBC News, whose spokesman said the network offered its “sincere regrets to the Clintons for the remarks.” 

Knowing when—and how—to respond to unfair, untrue, or derogatory public attacks is often difficult for school district leaders, however.

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