In this week’s episode it seems everyone is hiding something. We see various examples of individuals interested in covering up truths that might destroy their public persona as well as detract from or prevent their work for the greater good. The President and his wife maintain a façade to help keep them in the White House; Cyrus has led his partner to believe that he was willing to have a baby when he wasn’t; Olivia and the President continue to keep their relationship a secret; and we discover that the “Nation’s Pastor”, Marvin Drake, beloved civil rights leader and proponent of liberal causes, had been engaging in a long-term affair and has a son by his mistress. Are these mistakes?
Certainly they are flaws in character that go against the expected norm for many high profile individuals. Our public figures are idealized and in many ways, because of their success or beliefs, we want to believe that they are above the usual temptations and misjudgments that we “regular” people may fall prey to. We want them to be better than us and when they are not it disappoints us and we lose faith in them. With Pastor Drake the affair is an obvious violation of what he stands for as a religious leader but does that lessen the good he has accomplished over his life? Was he any less inspirational to the many that shared his political and spiritual beliefs? It is the man that was tarnished but should his legacy also be, which as Olivia correctly states, if it were to become public it most definitely would. Where he fell short was in his personal life- he made a mistake, not uncommon for many. Why that occurred is not examined. Can it be condoned? Not by many. But it can be forgiven by those who were violated, which occurred between the Pastor’s wife and his mistress at the funeral.
There is a separation between the public image and the private image which is what Olivia tries to maintain. It is often what she is hired for, to protect the public image and reduce the amount of damage that personal misjudgment can bring. Our culture does not want to separate the public from the personal; its leaders are held to a higher standard of what we think we should all be. But the many cases of scandals I have handled over the years exhibit that we are all only human. Should there be a price to pay for that? There usually is even when it goes undetected. But should it negate all that the individual has accomplished or hopes to accomplish? Perhaps some things are better not said, at least when not premeditated. There is a difference when a direct lie is used to precipitate an action such as the case of the photo that almost leads to a war in this episode. The ends do not justify the means, although in this episode the head of the CIA would argue differently.The distinction might be whether our actions contradict our public responsibilities; does it alter whatever we have accomplished? The Pastor certainly was in contradiction to his religious beliefs but did this mistake lessen what he stood for politically? I don’t believe that it did but many would disagree with this. Was the Pastor wrong? Definitely. Was it a mistake in judgment? Also definitely. But can it be forgiven? That is a personal decision but I have always believed that everyone deserves a second chance. We are all capable of making mistakes and for me, the attitude towards those mistakes must be taken into consideration. In this episode the wife and the other woman understand that and are both willing and able to rise above their own personal pain for the love of their man and all the good that he has accomplished. Apologies can go a long way towards forgiveness even when they are not verbalized.
Judy A. Smith is the founder and President of Smith and Company, a leading strategic and crisis communications firm with offices in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles as well as a Co-Executive Producer of ABC's Scandal. You can follow her on Twitter (@JudySmith_) or "Like" her on Facebook, and you can get more information about managing personal and professional crisis situations by visiting her site, judysmith.com.