Here's Mark Weaver's latest op-ed column, published by The Tennessean (Nashville's daily newspaper) - why the Mayor's sex scandal didn't have to end like a sad country song. Read below or click here.
Megan Barry's tenure didn’t have to end like a sad country song
By Mark R. Weaver
There are countless country music songs that include the phrase “I’m sorry.”
The most famous is Brenda Lee’s, where she laments her actions and asks, “Please accept my apology … love was blind and I was too blind to see.”
As if in reply, Blake Shelton sings a different tune, in the power ballad, “I’m Sorry,” crooning: “Oh, you're sorry, you want it back the way it was … but sometimes sorry just ain't good enough.”
The Brenda Lee request from Megan Barry, the fallen mayor of country music’s own hometown, was a hopeful plea for another chance. But the public’s Blake Shelton response brought a discordant coda to her public life.
In the end, it was just another mournful refrain that resounded across town, from the tourist-pleasing cover joints on Broadway to the foam-padded studios along Music Row and far beyond the city limits.
As a frequent visitor to Nashville, I often speak to conferences here about crisis communications and how public officials can manage the fallout from a big mistake. You won’t be surprised to hear that Megan Barry never took one of my classes.
Those of us who advise government leaders on how to respond to scandal watched the Barry episode with the same kind of grim foreboding of an air traffic controller eyeballing a damaged plane in sharp descent. We know how this flight ends.
The former mayor tried valiantly to rebound from her serious errors in judgment. In fact, many of her tactics evinced some competent counsel in her corner. Yet she nonetheless resigned, in shame, pleading guilty to a felony.
More people than Carrie Underwood are wondering what “Could’ve Been.” Could the mayor have done something different to survive this shameful experience?
Maybe. She certainly knew there were incriminating texts and improper overtime payments. Paying back the money before she broke the news of the affair might’ve forestalled the need for any investigations. But even more was needed.
Owning up to more than a mere marital indiscretion and telling all the facts at once could’ve prevented the cascade of negative stories that spurred more TV drama and gossip than any show with Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere.
And if the mayor had quickly acknowledged that she broke the law and asked prosecutors to treat her case like that of any other person, it would’ve engendered more public support for her. That kind of boost can go a long way to sustaining a public official in trouble.
Her early defense of special security for international jaunts, hot yoga, and Preds playoff games was wrong-headed and suggested that her repeated claims of transparency surrounding the matter were no more than a veneer.
In the end, Megan Barry was ensnared by the denials, deflections, and deceptions that are now de rigueur for politicians in distress. Not wanting to hand their partisan opponents a club to use against them, they end up beating themselves.
Mayor Barry might have saved her job. But much of the same poor judgement that got her into the problem was still in play as she tried to wriggle out of it.
We all screw up. But politicians spend so much energy seeking adulation and burnishing an image of honesty, their human imperfections become all the more glaring.
Indeed – ask anyone down at the Bluebird — the guitar player who insists on his audio being mixed louder than the rest of the band draws the most groans when he plays the wrong chord.
Mark R. Weaver is an attorney and crisis communications expert who has advised government officials in more than 25 states. One of his primary clients, the National Fraternal Order of Police, is based in Nashville. He is the author of the book “A Wordsmith’s Work.” Twitter: @MarkRWeaver.