Say you starred as the wacky neighbor on one of the most beloved sitcoms ever. The show ends, you’re doing some stand-up to pass the time, and, one night, you end up saying the n-word on stage. Shouting it, actually. Repeatedly. At a person of African-American descent. And telling that person he ought to be lynched.
In other words, say you’re Michael Richards. What do you do now?
1. Grovel. “The first thing he needs to do is apologize early and often,” says Michael W. Robinson, vice president of Levick Strategic Communications, a Washington, D.C., PR firm that specializes in crisis management. Richards made a passable start last night, appearing via satellite on The Late Show with David Letterman to say he’s “busted up” about the outburst. “I’m deeply, deeply sorry,” he added.
While Richards’ form left something to be desired—he twice used the outdated term “Afro-American,” drawing titters from the audience—his quick response impressed Robinson, who cites a Mark Twain maxim: “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”