During a recent town hall meeting, South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer compared government assistance to feeding “stray animals.” Ugh… sometimes you can’t make this stuff up. Here’s the money quote:
“My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed! You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that.”
So, according to Bauer, the conclusion to draw about the poor is that they are mostly stupid and just want to have sex and eat, assuming they are capable such auto-functionality. Other demographic populations are also stereotyped by this behavior, but I digress…
The insult cuts wide and deep. South Carolina’s poverty rate in 2008 was almost 16% (which puts it a few points above the national average). Comparing over 700,000 of your state’s population to animals in one fell swoop is not only disgusting and inexcusable, it’s also really stupid politics.
To really understand the impact of such dumb words, consider what appears in a simple Google News search for “Andre Bauer”:
In these situations a public relations specialist plays the role of a counselor and recommends crisis management strategies. Bauer would have been smart to recant his words, but instead he amazingly refused to apologize when interviewed for a follow-up story, offering a ridiculous verbal tap dance to justify his ranting. (Which brings up another good point in crisis PR: the more you have to explain, the worse the situation usually gets.)
Bauer finally wised up and apologized, but only after 5 days and mounting, bipartisan criticism. Waiting nearly a week to explain your actions is an eternity in crisis PR, and as indicated in the picture above, the damage has been done.