Following up our most recent blog post on the potential for workplace actions to go viral, it becomes more and more clear that technology has introduced elements Shakespeare could never have envisioned when he wrote “All the world’s a stage.” Both the most amazing deeds and worst gaffes will be magnified beyond not only what the Bard of Avon knew in the 16th century but far further than what most of us could imagine even a decade ago.
East Haven, CT mayor Joseph Maturo, Jr. unintentionally thrust himself into the world spotlight this week when he tossed an off the cuff response to a New York City television reporter’s very serious question. Asked what the town was doing to support its Latino community following the arrest of several police officers for abusing Latino residents, he now infamously replied “I might have tacos when I get home. I’m not quite sure yet.”
Yes, it was an incredibly stupid thing to say in any context but his lack of judgment could not have possibly come at a worse time. Maturo was speaking as he was the focus of a video camera. Were he talking with a journalist who wasn’t equipped this technology, he may have been able to pass off the remark as a misquote.
But when the exchange was documented as precisely as possible? Not a chance.
The appallingly dopey nature of the comment was viral rocket fuel. In the past, television stations might have played such a clip often but the Internet provides distribution capabilities Maturo would have to be completely oblivious not to recognize. Many people around the globe who don’t exactly know where Connecticut is, have now heard of East Haven (better known as “Staven” to us CT natives). This will also be the defining moment of his political career and nearly ensures he can never be re-elected.
While most people, especially those elected to a town’s top office, would know better than to say something blatantly insensitive on a serious subject, there is another key point to learn from this incident. If you find yourself before a journalist, remember that you cannot completely retract a statement. You may pride yourself on being a ‘straight-shooter’ but there is no way of telling how both the reporter and his/her audience will interpret your remarks if you make them brutally blunt.
The ability to think something through before speaking is something that varies widely from person to person and situation to situation. Yet there is no attribute more valuable when conducting yourself in a situation that could become very public, very quickly.