Political PR Disasters
When the bigwigs get it wrong
Donald Trump follows in the not-so-hallowed footprints of Richard Nixon and Jeremy Thorpe.
He has once again proved to be the unpredictable and maverick leader of the US that everyone knows him for. On Wednesday the 29th of November, Trump retweeted three anti-Islam videos published by the British far-right extremist group Britain First. The videos were retweeted from Mr. Trump’s official Twitter account which he is believed to have full, uncontrolled access to. He has been widely criticised all around the world, with several world leaders condemning his actions, with Theresa May describing it as, “The wrong thing to do”.
Officials from the White House have since said that the tweets were about national border security. The videos are believed to show Muslim men beating a Dutch boy, a Muslim man vandalising a statue of the virgin Mary and a Muslim mob pushing a boy off a roof and him falling to his death. Since the retweeting of these videos, the Dutch embassy in the US have tweeted about how the Muslim men were dealt with fairly according to their rules and laws in their country. As well as this, the men who committed the murder of the boy were all given maximum prison sentences, with one being executed for the role they had in this.
This seemingly shows up Trump’s ignorance to the world around him, having come out in defence of white US citizens responsible for the killing of black or ethnic minority men, and appealed for their prison sentence to be shortened. It is this type of partisan behaviour that makes Donald Trump a very dangerous leader of the US, a country known as the home of the ‘Free World’.
However, it is important to remember that Mr. Trump is not the only politician to be caught out for behaviour that is deemed unacceptable of a politician in a free, democratic society. Just recently Labour MP Jared O’Mara was suspended after reports of him being misogynistic and homophobic in his behaviour, including tweets he sent.
Two notable cases are those of Richard Nixon and Jeremy Thorpe. What is different between these cases and that of Donald Trump, however, is that Nixon and Thorpe’s careers were ruined by these defining moments, whereas Trump’s movement seems to have been strengthened, and support has become stronger among those who voted for him.
Richard Nixon was the US president during the early 1970s and was heart of the ‘Watergate’ scandal. The scandal was uncovered in 1972 by journalists from the Washington Post, where they found that Richard Nixon and his Republican workforce had been using spyware to tap into conversations taking place during meetings between his Democratic counterparts.
This case grew in size and Nixon ended up being ordered by the Supreme Court of the United States to hand over the tapes where Nixon and his allies were recorded talking about the scheme to government investigators. This led to Nixon resigning on the 9th of August 1974, with Gerald Ford named as his replacement on the 8th of September 1974.
The final part of this extraordinary tale came after Ford had taken office. Ford chose, despite many senior officials throughout America calling for him not to, to pardon Richard Nixon of any crimes that were committed during his time in office. He reasoned that it was in the best interests of the country if Nixon was not prosecuted, and that the situation of his family life already constituted a great enough punishment for his actions.
Then there is the case of Jeremy Thorpe, former leader of the Liberal party in Britain. Thorpe faced controversies over two issues, that linked in a sick way. Jeremy Thorpe was rumoured to be homosexual, something that during the late 1960s and early 1970s was still widely frowned upon. The man who Thorpe was rumoured to have had a relationship with was Norman Scott, a model.
Thorpe was constantly in fear that Scott would expose him and that he would lose the leadership of the Liberal party as a result of this, and this led Thorpe to going through all kinds of means to silence Scott. This caused problems for Thorpe in the long run however, as when Scott was shot in an attempted murder, Thorpe was flagged up as a possible assailant, or responsible for the shooting through the purchase of a hit-man. Thorpe stepped down as leader of the Liberal party soon after the allegations came out.
This led to a scandal whereby Thorpe was accused of the attempted assassination of Norman Scott. He was then arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder and was later put on trial charged with conspiracy and incitement to murder at the Old Bailey.
Thorpe was later acquitted of all charges, but the scandal and the publicity surrounding it ended what had been a promising political career many years to early.
These two instances show how scandals can lead to the destruction of a political career, however Donald Trump’s actions have not seen nearly the same outrage and public cry for resignation. This can be put down to the consistency of Trump’s actions, as Trump was always seen as a very right-wing politician with questionable views on topics such as immigration and the religion of Islam. Yet this should not be the justification for Trump’s actions. We do not think better of a killer if they have been killing all their life; we maybe think even worse of them. So why does this same conclusion seem to justify the acts of Donald Trump, when they normally would have led to public outrage and resignation in many other times and places?