(REAL TIMES MEDIA)—I had several New Year’s resolutions for 2010. I would hit the gym on the regular, call family more often and not write one word about Tiger Woods until he returned to golf. It looks like I’ve gone three months into the new year, Tony Robbins would be proud. The latest Tiger story is just too important to pass up, not because I think his public scandal deserves more attention, (it has been analyzed to death) but because his latest move is worse than anything he did to cost himself endorsements last fall. The last thing anybody should do to re-habilitate their image is take advice from a member of the old Bush administration, but that’s exactly what Woods is doing.
Last week Tiger hired Ari Fleischer, former Bush press secretary from 2000 to 2003, to help fix his public relations problems, and promote his return to golf in early April. From the disputed election of 2000 to Sept. 11 to the start of the Iraq war Fleischer was one of the most visible and powerful faces in the nation. Since Bush held fewer press conferences than any president in the television era it was often up to Fleischer to justify, explain and mostly promote the policies of the administration. After leaving the White House Ari created Fleischer Sports Communications, a PR firm dedicated to helping athletes manage the press, especially after scandals.
Fleischer has a pretty good track record so far, spanning various sports and events. He went to bat for Mark McGuire after he was busted as a steroid user, helped the Green Bay Packers after they traded Brett Favre, and he consulted the NFL after a spate of high profile player arrests threatened to derail the league’s public image. All of these are great resume bullet points and I’m sure that they had something to do with Tiger Woods hiring Fleischer, but there is something else about this hire that is unseemly, something that people of conscience and somebody like Tiger should have taken into consideration. Ari Fleischer’s biggest PR successes weren’t about getting some aging star a new Gatorade contract or mollifying fans after a bad trade. This guy sold a war that cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
Ari Fleischer was the key face behind selling the war in Iraq, a war that coincidentally reaches its seven- year anniversary this week on March 19. It was Fleischer who told the nation after 9/11 that Iraq was to blame. It was Fleischer who threatened the press by suggesting that questioning Bush was equivalent to treason. It was Fleischer who propagated the lie that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and it was Fleischer who helped out CIA agent Valerie Plame to squelch any dissent in the administration. We’re not talking about a cute mixture of Jerry McGuire and Jack Ryan here. Tiger Woods just hired a man who played a crucial role in getting this nation into a shameful bloody war overseas; just so he can get a few endorsements back? Were OJ Simpson and R. Kelly not available as spiritual advisers?
I never thought Tiger needed to do that much to rehabilitate his image, because I didn’t think his “crime” was that outlandish. One of the richest men in America, and one of the most recognizable men in the world gets caught cheating on his wife with a group of lowbrow women. His image is tarnished, people feign shock and disappointment and he begins a long depressing road back to public respectability. Are we talking about Woods or Bill Clinton?
The fact that their stories are the same is probably one of the reasons why Woods would hire someone like Ari Fleischer to help bail him out. Yet the fact that he has no problem using a former war propagandist to achieve that success is infinitely more morally reprehensible than anything that occurred between him and his wife last November.
As soon as Tiger starts winning tournaments again people will forget his crimes and in a few years nobody will remember who did what to cause the scandal to begin with. Think about it, after seven years and millions of lives and dollars lost nobody remembers that Ari Fleischer was the face of an unjust war that bankrupted the nation. I’m pretty confident that he can convince the nation to forget Tiger’s mistakes, too. Remember, at least when Tiger lied, nobody died.
(Dr. Jason Johnson is an associate professor at Hiram College in Ohio.)