Typically, when a politician publishes a book, it stands to reason that a publicity tour will follow.
The author will jet set from Washington, D.C., to New York, and across his or her home state, speaking with every journalist and potential reader possible to generate votes as much as take-home income.
But then, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is no ordinary politician.
As the Arizona Democrat recovers from a gunshot wound to the head, tonight’s prime-time interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer — no doubt a plum promotional spot — might be the only such interview she will grant.
Where otherwise there would exist an all-out public relations effort surrounding the Tuesday release of “Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope,” there is a notably measured campaign for the book by Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly.
It’s a vast difference from other Congressional book rollouts, where the press office works with a publicist to land the Member on as many television shows as possible.
Sen. Jim Webb, for instance, followed up the release of his 2008 book, “A Time to Fight: Reclaiming a Fair and Just America,” with a media jaunt including stops on “The Daily Show,” on “Charlie Rose” and at the National Press Club, said the Virginia Democrat’s then-press secretary, Kimberly Hunter.
“We worked with the book publicist to determine targets where he would promote the book,” she said. “We were pretty involved in prepping him and staffing him in interviews because he was doing more politically oriented shows.”
In this case, Giffords’ Congressional office punted a request to comment on promotional plans to the book’s publicist at Simon & Schuster, Brian Belfiglio, who in turn declined requests for comment.
Of course, Webb’s book focused more on policy prescriptions. “Gabby” is being billed as a memoir. Kelly wrote the book, save the last chapter, which was penned by the book’s namesake. The book’s co-author, Jeffrey Zaslow, also declined an interview request.
Giffords, among the most talked-about Members since she was attacked at a constituent event in Tucson, Ariz., on Jan. 8, does not need “to go out and hawk a book like some ordinary political figure or some ordinary Member of Congress who’s trying to create an image,” said her former communications director, C.J. Karamargin.
“Gabby now is in a unique position. She is part of Congress, but almost separate and above Congress,” he said, referencing her August return to the Capitol to cast her first vote since being shot. “Without uttering a single world, she managed to make people feel good about their government again.”
He noted that Giffords is trying to balance her right to privately recover with the public’s right to information about their Representative.
A media junket is probably the last thing that would help the recovery, noted Stan Collender, partner at the public relations firm Qorvis Communications and a Roll Call contributor.
“Getting on a airplane, even when it’s a private plane, and going from city to city and interview to interview ... is extraordinarily exhausting,” he said.
And indeed, for a Member who has cast just one vote since being shot, it would send the wrong message back home, he noted: “The story they almost certainly don’t want out is she’s not voting, but she’s out around the country making speeches.”
Whether she is in good enough condition to participate in media interviews is an outstanding question — by all indications, tonight, the press, the public and Congressional staff will find out together.