Communications Director a Casualty of Booker’s Party Criticism

Newark, N.J.

It's an old story: A public figure makes an inflammatory statement, hurts his personal brand (and that of his organization), goes into damage control mode and the communications director goes down in flames.

The most recent high-profile version of this tale began when the Democratic mayor of Newark, N.J., Cory Booker, appeared on a May 20 telecast of Meet the Press and called the Obama campaign's strategy of criticizing Bain Capital and other private equity firms "nauseating." (For the record, Booker also called the dredging up of Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his previous connections to Barack Obama nauseating.)

Then came the May 21 "clarification" on Rachel Maddow's MSNBC show, in which he said, "Obviously, I did things in the Meet the Press interview, as I told you, that did not land the points that I was trying to make. And in some ways, you know, frustratingly, I think I conflated the attacks that the Republicans were making with Jeremiah Wright with some of the attacks on the left. And those can't even be equated."

And then, on May 29, PolitickerNJ reported that Booker's communications director Anne Torres had resigned.

Torres offered no reason for her resignation in her official statement, so commenters on the Web filled the void with their own reasons, saying variously that she's a scapegoat, that Booker needs an ace communications pro whose advice he'll actually take, that she was disappointed by Booker's attack on his own party, that the party itself forced her out.

We'll never know the truth. All we know is a public figure made a statement that hurt his political future in the near term, and the communications director left his organization. Veteran PR pros are surely nodding in grim recognition at hearing the news about Torres' departure from Booker's staff. It doesn't matter who is at fault. Maybe in the long run Booker will benefit from his attention-grabbing statement on Meet the Press. But he's feeling the heat now, and that means the communications person (or team) takes the hit.

It's part of the job, particularly in politics—to vanish from the scene when the top person is under fire he brought upon himself.

Follow Steve Goldstein: @SGoldsteinAI