The Hendren Gaffe: Lessons for All of Us!

People are still writing about Kim Hendren, the possible candidate for U.S. Senate (no papers yet!) who stuck his foot in his mouth recently re: Chuck Schumer. There’s been all kinds of political commentary on that, including some discussion of the matter between Little Rock blogger Blake Rutherford and I. Barry Goldberg, an executive coach who writes a column for Arkansas Business. That discussion noted here.

In addition to political and social matters, Goldberg’s been thinking about the Hendren gaffe from a communications standpoint and points to lessons we can all learn about “leadership communications.” Not surprisingly, the Hendren gaffe is a perfect example of what not to do!

Among those lessons, from Goldberg’s Leader’s Notebook blog:

If you are going to apologize, apologize. Justification, reframing and excuses are not an apology.

When he was taken-to-task about the statement by an Arkansas blogger, Hendren endeavored to apologize.  Unfortunately, his attempt only made matters worse.  An apology made with conditions, explanations, justification and reserve is not an apology.  Hendren’s effort managed to include them all.  The press, the blogsphere (conservative and liberal alike) and the public fed on this further communication snafu like a steak dinner.  The comments that drew the most fire had to do with his justification that there are Jews he admires, especially Jesus; and, that he was just “…attempting to explain that unlike Senator Schumer, I believe in traditional values, like we used to see on The Andy Griffith Show.”

And if you are going to apologize, apologize for the right thing.  In another comment, Hendren says “I made the mistake of referring to Sen. Schumer as ‘that Jew’ and I should not have put it that way, as this took away from what I was trying to say.” So, the problem, in Hendren’s view, is not that he should not have brought Schumer’s faith into the argument, but that he distracted listeners from his actual point.

Goldberg has more practical lessons we can all learn. And in the end, he notes, it was Schumer who provided the best example of how to conduct one’s self in an unfortunate matter such as this, with his succint statement, “Apology accepted.”


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