In the PR fiasco that was the Bush administration’s handling of Vice President Dick Cheney’s hunting accident in Texas this week, did they miss an enormous opportunity to score some points with the media and the American public — two constituencies that have grown increasingly hostile toward this administration?
Here’s the thinking: The Veep accidentally shot his friend and hunting partner. The Veep attempted to avoid the press (most likely against the counsel of his press secretary…a lesson to be learned for today’s CEOs). The press hammered poor Scott McClellan, who obviously is growing frustrated with the Bush administration’s inability to grasp the basics of public relations. No one more so than NBC’s David Gregory. Public pressure forced the VP out of his bunker to address the situation. The White House chose to use Fox News as the sole vehicle for the VP’s interview on the subject.
And that is where they missed a golden opportunity.
Fox News is forever tainted with a perception of bias to the conservatives. Putting the VP on Fox gives the impression to many Americans that the tough questions won’t get asked and that, perhaps, there are questions the administration doesn’t want asked.
Instead, the White House should have given the exclusive to NBC’s Gregory, the man who ended up in a heated exchange with McClellan over continued stonewalling by the administration. By doing so, the American public would have seen a Vice President who doesn’t back away from tough issues and one who has respect for the checks-and-balances inherent in a free press. And that perception would have had a halo effect on the President at a time when he and those around him badly need it.
But they didn’t. And they missed a huge chance to put some points in the win column.