I am not a witch

Richard Nixon made history in 1973 with his ‘I am not a crook’ statement.  Public relations people everywhere used ‘I am not a crook’ as an example of how not to make a statement. Do not repeat a negative. Stay positive. State what you are.

I’d have thought people understood how strong messaging works, certainly people who can hire professionals to work with them to craft the messages. This year proves, however, that new people must still learn the same old lessons.

When Yale University Librarian Fred Shapiro released his fifth annual list of most notable quotationsyesterday, ‘I am not a witch’ led the way. These famous words were spoken by Christine O’Donnell in an ad for her own campaign for a Delaware senate seat.

Why not say it? Several reasons.

Say it and everyone who didn’t hear the accusations the first time, now has – issuing from the candidate herself.

Say it and prolong the problem by giving it more air time.

Say it and give the opposition more – a really good soundbite, in fact – to work with.

Say it enough (as in an ad aired many, many times) and make even reasonable people begin to wonder. Taking a line from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, ‘The lady doth protest too much, methinks.’

Plenty of reasons to stay positive in the message. But new people have to learn the same lessons. And to prove the point, here comes Oprah – even Oprah – with ‘I am not a lesbian.’

Learn from the past or be doomed to repeat it.

Nixon image courtesy of fanpop.com

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