4 Ways to Rehabilitate a Sullied Image

Image: The New York Times

Anthony Weiner, the former congressman who resigned in 2011 following a sex scandal stemming from a series of  explicit tweets, is looking to make a political comeback. 

Earlier this year he conducted a poll for a possible run for mayor of New York or City Comptroller. Now it seems that his political comeback plans are starting to accelerate, what with last week's cover story in The New York Times Magazine that tackled the scandal and Weiner's efforts to rehabilitate his image. 

Can he make a comeback? David Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision, a PR agency that specializes in crisis communications, says he's got a good shot.

American politics is chock fill with politicians who came back from scandal, according to Johnson. "In South Carolina we are witnessing the return of Mark Sanford, so Anthony Weiner’s comeback is not that improbable," he says.

So what does Weiner, or other public figures who have been immersed in scandal, do now?

 Here are Johnson's four pieces of advice: 

  1. Defuse the situation: The worse thing that can happen to a politician is to become fodder for late night comedy. Dan Quayle never recovered.  Anthony Weiner jokes are still used in late night monologues. My first advice would be go on one of the late night shows. Weiner should poke fun at himself and defuse the situation. Get Letterman or Leno or Kimmel to laugh with him and not at him. That will get him past the laugh test, which will be his greatest hurdle.

  2. Exhaust the media by holding a press conference: Everyone knows Weiner is gearing up to run for office. The question on everyone’s mind when it comes to Weiner isn’t the crime rates in New York City, taxes or quality of life. It’s his marriage and the scandal. Talking to The Times won’t end these questions; indeed the article has increased the media scent. Hold a press conference before announcing any candidacy, answer anything the media want until they can’t think of anything else and then refuse from that point on to answer anything else. This tactic works and if the media keeps going after the press conference, the public will be on Weiner’s side, thinking he's had enough. Above all, show remorse when answering questions. Show that you have learned from your mistake.

  3. Adopt an issue the public cares about: Weiner is known as publicity hound, and, of course, for his Twitter scandal. To get past these labels and be taken seriously for elective office he needs to adopt an issue that New Yorkers care about and become identified with it. If he can do this and own the issue, it will go a long way in making him a more viable candidate.

  4. Show stability: Demonstrate in appearances and interviews that you and your wife have dealt with the issue and she supports you. Open up to every detail of the pain, anger and then forgiveness that happened, so voters feel that they, too, can forgive.

Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg