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Davis' Brand Is Crisis

When it comes to scandal, Davis’ advice to his clients is always: ‘Tell it all, tell it early, tell it yourself’

Leigh Vogel/Getty Images
Davis’ newest book is “Crisis Tales: Five Rules for Coping With Crises in Business, Politics, and Life.”

“I love chess,” Lanny J. Davis said over lunch. “I love a challenge.”

Davis, the nation’s go-to crisis manager, looks nothing like television’s version of a scandal eraser.

He doesn’t have the pouty lips of Kerry Washington (“Scandal”), nor is he as perfectly nasty as Don Cheadle in “House of Lies.”

Davis is all crinkly eyes and earnestness that belie the nerves of steel he must have to do his job.

He rose to prominence in the late 1990s when the White House hired him. Davis was brought on to give to his former Yale Law School friend Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband, Bill, a needed assist.

At the time, it seemed as if the Clintons couldn’t breathe without kicking up a hellfire storm of public scandal and intrigue.

Davis gave the White House the same advice he’s given all of his clients, from Martha Stewart to ex-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., to Royal Caribbean Cruises: “Tell it all, tell it early, tell it yourself.”

Book Form

Davis’ latest book is a tell-all of sorts.

“Crisis Tales: Five Rules for Coping With Crises in Business, Politics, and Life” lays out a condensed version of his strategy for weathering crises.

When the reader strips down the strategic legal maneuverings or the media manipulation, the heart of Davis’ strategy boils down to this: Be transparent, be humble, be proactive and be empathetic to the people you’ve hurt.

If that’s not enough to keep Washington reading, Davis has laced the medicine with some sugar, weaving his tough-love strategies with stories about his personal experience cleaning up after a seemingly endless parade of A-list clients.

With the Clinton White House mired in one scandal after another, Davis came on board to wipe up the first family’s messes.

“Late one night I found a document  . . .  that had already been delivered to a Republican investigative committee,” Davis recalled. “And it said, ‘You should invite the following people to stay overnight in the Lincoln bedroom to, quote, ‘energize’ them. For $50,000 apiece.”

The sheet of paper was crowned with President Clinton’s own chicken scratch scrawl and his signature- reversed check mark.

Get All the Facts Out

“I knew it was him. It was late at night, after midnight, we were looking at a box of documents we knew was going to the Republicans. I look at this document, I see his handwriting at the top of the page. It says ‘100K, 50K’  . . .  that’s how they raise money to get re-elected.”

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