Davis’ newest book is “Crisis Tales: Five Rules for Coping With Crises in Business, Politics, and Life.”
“It’s a huge story,” Davis continued. “So what do you do? If I’m a lawyer, nothing. Hope they don’t ask me. What I did is I called an Associated Press reporter. I said, ‘Come on over tomorrow morning. I have something I need to leak to you. We’re going to have to set up ground rules.’”
The ground rules were to give Davis and his team time to amass all the facts he could find, including how many people other presidents had invited for overnight stays in the Lincoln bedroom and whether they were big donors. In other words, he said, it’s important to take time to gather facts to put the scandal in context.
“I gave [the reporter] the whole story. He published the entire Lincoln bedroom story in the Associated Press. It went out across the whole country. It was a terrible story,” he said. “But it was over by the time Fred Thompson, Sen. Thompson, held his hearing. I was out in the hallway handing out the story, that was written months before, to everyone, saying, ‘This is old news.’”
His strategy is to get all the facts of a crisis out, good and bad. He respects the press, he says, and works with reporters to get out a story, whatever the subject might be.
The Human Element
His business, Davis says, is to unearth and manage the “human dimension of a crisis.” The paradox of the book, of course, is that in order to make a crisis go away quickly and forever, there has to be near-total honesty with the public and complete trust among Davis, his clients and the media.
In a Washington in which the politicians are increasingly opaque and the press is increasingly distrustful, Davis’ policy of forcing his clients to work with media feels like a renegade move. He does have a line he won’t cross, however. He says he would never “give a fact to a reporter that can put a person in jail.”
Say what you will about Davis, and Lord knows people do, the man can manage the hell out of a crisis.
In fact, ex-embattled President Bill Clinton and ex-embattled first lady, New York senator and secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton aren’t just two former clients. They are, perhaps, the two most popular politicians in the world.