A Lesson from the Romney/Harris-Perry Controversy

I was glad to see the classy manner with which Mitt Romney accepted Melissa Harris-Perry’s apology for remarks made on her MSNBC program about the former presidential candidate’s adopted African-American grandson. Hopefully, this puts an end to the incident because there are far more important issues on the national agenda for 2014.

Two quick observations from my years in politics and media:

Mitt Romney

Number one, the incident reminds us that all public figures, no matter how powerful or influential, are people just like the rest of us. They are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, and so on. Yes, they signed up for a life in a fishbowl, and they’re more thick-skinned than most of us. But they experience the same feelings and emotions as we do.

I once worked with a man who had been a speechwriter for a member of the Kennedy family. He told me he began to think differently about what he once thought were harmless Kennedy jokes when he realized they involved someone’s uncle or father.

Secondly, I feel a need to clarify a sentiment emerging from the controversy, namely that targeting families of public figures is off-limits. While spouses, children and siblings may not have chosen to enter the limelight, politicians often use their family members to create warm, fuzzy images. In my opinion, they can’t have things both ways. Politicians and other public figures who use their families to score points can’t cry foul when someone brings one of those family members into the public discourse.

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