Tuesday, August 2

Sometimes, it's okay to shut up.

"No comment" is supposed to be a cardinal sin in public relations. But that doesn't mean that you spill your guts, and talk yourself into a worse position.

Case in point -- The Salt Lake County District Attorney's office.

A mother is angry that her 8-year-old son was charged with an "act of lewdness with a minor." That other "minor" was his 14-year-old babysitter!

The sitter and the boy were playing "Truth or Dare," and she dared him to touch her breasts. So he did. And he told mom about it later. (I don't remember seeing that game in the Babysitter's Handbook.)

When mom went to the cops, they charged her son, saying the boy was an "equal and willing participant."

Needless to say, mom got mad and went to the media.

The DA's office fielded the call about as well as you can. It confirmed the charge, and the dropping of the charge, and declined further comment. Nothing on the record in quotes. It's not the same as "no comment," but it prevents further liability.

Why the silent treatment in this instance? For one, there is virtually no potential for a repeat down the line, and no future for this case. The story has a short, shocking shelf life, and it's gone. Second, there is a liability involved if the DA says too much, and winds up hanging an employee out to dry. The erroneous charge is clearly a case of "no harm, no foul," and you can bet it won't happen again. Why jeopardize a career by passing an invisible buck? Additional statements would not have added any clarity or understanding -- and would have risked stoking the fire further.