Consider the possibility that Bill Cosby’s public image could ever recover from the charges of rape leveled against him, a suggestion made by one of my students. I pondered that the only way this might happen is if he was first found innocent in a court of law, and added that Cosby has probably been permanently damaged because of the huge number of credible accusers. It seems he’ll never be able to regain his positive public image under any circumstances.
This could now be the case with Donald Trump. The revelation of a 2005 conversation in which he bragged about sexual aggression and assault may doom any reasonable chance of his election to the presidency. His team took nearly 13 hours to produce an online videotaped statement in which Trump acknowledged wrong-doing, apologized, and ended with an attack on Bill and Hillary Clinton. It remains to be seen how damaging this latest bombshell will be, and whether more damaging video and quotes will surface before Election Day.
The images of other entertainers and politicians have recovered following their illicit or illegal acts. After Michael Vick served jail time for animal abuse, he focused on rebuilding his life and public image through charity work and a renewed, successful football career. A post-Watergate Richard Nixon, although never able to fully shed his crooked public persona, earned a measure of redemption after apologizing on television for the scandal and becoming a best-selling author of thoughtful books on public policy. Bill Clinton, after being impeached in the Senate for lying about a White House affair, completed his presidency with a Gallup poll approval rating of 65%, higher than that of every other departing president measured since 1953.
This latest controversy encircling Donald Trump may not only cost him the election; it’s likely to scar the Trump brand and hurt his businesses. If he loses next month, it will be fascinating to observe if the damage is permanent or fades after a few months or years. If he wins, he’ll still need to spend a lot of his “stamina” repairing his public image–from within the Oval Office. Your thoughts?