5 guidelines for when your private remarks become public fodder

From Nixon to Anthony Weiner, private statements or tweets are the great undoing of many public figures. Here’s how to prevent—or react to—such a crisis.

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This was a secret-microphones-story-with-a-twist, in that the person who ended up trapped was the very man who had authorized the secret recordings in the first place. From 1971 to 1973, tapes were made of conversations among President Richard Nixon and his staff, thanks to a network of microphones that Nixon had installed in the White House.

In June 1972, a break-in at the Democrats’ National Committee headquarters led the FBI to link the burglary to the Committee to Re-elect the President. At the subsequent Senate Watergate investigation, the Nixon tapes helped implicate the president, leading to his eventual resignation in August 1974.

In other words, Nixon’s own secret tapes came back to help oust him.

These days, of course, it’s more likely to be a microphone left open by a broadcaster, or a reporter’s audio recorder still running, that will capture the fatal words.

However, the Nixon scandal sends powerful warning signals to people who find themselves within range of a microphone (hidden or unnoticed) and whose ill-judged comments are picked up and broadcast or distributed on social media sites.

First, it’s very often the cover-up that’s more damaging than the original incident.

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