When The Shad was communications director for the state Senate Democrats a few years ago, one of the responsibilities was to act of sort of a filter between the senators and the news media; weeding out potentially defamatory or very politically incorrect statements. This was particularly important when the caucus as a whole was making a presentation. Mistakes will be made but to the extent possible, every detail should be scrutinized.
That wasn’t the case this week when legislative Republican rolled out their no-new-taxes “budget.” The phrase, “Too chiefs and not enough Indians” somehow made its way into materials accompanying the budget when the GOP was trying to make the point about too many managers in state government. It’s important to note the reference was not just spoken off the cuff when politicians (and others) can be expected to say something offensive to someone in the politically correct times in which we live. But this was in the written materials! How in the world could that not have been cleaned up by staff? My Irish butt would have been in either Sen. Presidents Kevin Sullivan’s or Don Williams’ office before the Mashantucket Pequots even had a chance to object.
And object they did. “The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council was dismayed to learn that the Republican’s proposed budget was published without any regard for the inappropriate reference contained therein. Though perhaps an oversight, the Council sincerely hopes that this matter will be swiftly eradicated, accompanied by appropriate amends to all those who may have been equally affronted,” NBC-Connecticut TV posted online.
To be sure, the Republicans apologized but then amazingly, repeated the offensive phrase in its apology. “It was brought to our attention that a phrase included in the budget materials we presented today were offensive to Native Americans and should not have been used,” they said. “In describing the need for reducing the number of managers in the state system `too many chiefs and not enough Indians’ was used and should not have been. It was an unintentional mistake, but insensitive nonetheless and will not be repeated. We apologize to Native Americans and anyone else who rightly takes offense.”
They should have just issued the apology for using an offensive analogy and left it at that. Anyone who cared enough to know what was said could have looked it up or called the GOP press offices (assuming they weren’t hiding in the copy room) for clarification.
I remember a time I wrote a news release for Sen. Majority Leader Marty Looney. It was about funding for the Veterans Memorial Bridge in New Haven. I referred to it as “The Q-Bridge” as it often is by area commuters. Sen. Looney, truly sensitive to his constituency, promptly told me the veterans would be offended by “The Q-Bridge” term and we changed to its rightful name. That’s a tame example. But it is an example nonetheless about how communications offices should work.
What’s next, the F-Troop theme song in the background?