Congressman announces breakup with fiance via Facebook

Sanford and Chapur
Former South Carolina Governor and current South Carolina Congressman Mark Sanford is in the news again, and again, it’s for bizarre reasons.

In 2009, when Sanford was Governor, he disappeared for six days, with aides saying he was hiking the Appalachian trail.  That wasn’t what was actually going on: Sanford’s car was found parked at an Atlanta airport.  Eventually, the truth came out: he was having an affair with a woman in Argentina.  The entire incident formed a strange coda to the end of Sanford’s time as Governor.  Sanford had never communicated his absense to his Lt. Governor or any other members of South Carolina’s governmental leadership and wasn’t in touch with his staff for days.  Sanford managed to avoid impeachment, which was threatened, but was censured by the legislature.  On a personal level, he left the public eye (for a time), divorced his wife and became engaged to the woman, Maria Belen Chapur.  Sanford was subsequently elected back to Congress in a 2013 special election.

Fast forward to two weeks ago, when Sanford announced, via a Facebook update, that he and Chapur had broken up.  In the post, which has since been deleted, Sanford blamed the breakup on his ongoing battles with his ex-wife, saying:

No relationship can stand forever this tension of being forced to pick between the one you love and your own son or daughter…Maybe there will be another chapter when waters calm with Jenny, but at this point the environment is not conducive to building anything given no one would want to be caught in the middle of what’s now happening.

Chapur’s reaction?  Surprise.  They had actually broken up prior to the Facebook announcement, thank goodness, and Chapur had asked Sanford to make it known to the public.  However, she did not expect a +2,400 word missive on the event, and only learned about the status update from the press when they asked her for comment. She also gave different reasons for the breakup, citing disputes over setting the wedding date.

Shortly after Sanford made this Facebook post, another appeared on his official page:

Sanford Facebook Breakup PostThe entire incident is a strange one, and that’s saying something, considering that Congressman Sanford has become known for the weird behavior he exhibits as it pertains to his personal life.  Public officials’ personal lives have a bad tendency of becoming public, but coordination on these issues is absolutely key – he never should have made the post without clearing its content with Chapur, or at a bare minimum giving her a heads up that it was going to occur.  When you are discussing your personal life on social media, you absolutely must make sure that, to whatever extent possible, all parties are on the same page.  Sanford failed to do that here and made a bad story worse: Not only are people discussing his breakup, but they are discussing the fact that he didn’t even have the decency to give his ex-fiance a heads up about it.


Donald Trump McConnell for Speaker

Donald Trump is not good at Twitter: Messes up latest endorsement

Last week, Donald Trump tried to use Twitter to endorse Senator Mitch McConnell’s reelection campaign.  It did not go well:

Donald Trump McConnell for SpeakerIs that possible?  Actually, yes, since the Speaker of the House doesn’t actually have to be a House member, though that’s never happened.  Regardless, whoever sent out this tweet got their wires crossed: McConnell may be the next Senate Majority Leader, but he most certainly won’t be the next Speaker.

Anyway, two days later (not sure why it took so long), Trump sent out this corrective tweet:

Donald Trump McConnell for Speaker Correction
This is a terrible tweet for two reasons:

1) Someone unknown?  Really?  Trump styles himself as one of the world’s leading businessmen, but “someone unknown” has access to his Twitter account?  That’s definitely not a management best practice.

2) Why did it take two days to correct?  This is a basic mistake and someone should have made the switch right away.

Incidentally, this isn’t the first time that Trump has had trouble with an endorsement tweet…far from it, in fact.  In August, Trump tried to tweet his support of Tom Cotton’s Arkansas Senate campaign, noting that Cotton was a Rhodes Scholar…except Cotton wasn’t a Rhodes scholar, and the tweet was deleted.  Then, in late August, Trump tweeted his endorsement of Scott Brown against New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen.  In the process, he attempted to tweet at Shaheen, but instead directed the tweet at a Rhode Island State Senator with the same last name.

The end result here is a systemic issue for whoever runs Trump’s Twitter account.  Whoever that person is really needs to get better at their research.  It’s amazing what you can screw up in 140 characters, a lesson that Donald Trump should have learned by now.


DeMaio Campaign Offensive Twitter Staff 2

Campaign staffer loses job offer after his Twitter account is discovered

Carl DeMaio (R) is a candidate for Congress in California, running against Congressman Scott Peters (D).  DeMaio recently made national news, but probably not in the way he would have liked: He was forced to withdraw a job offer for Blaise Hahs, after a review of Hahs’ Twitter account revealed a series of racist tweets.

Hahs, a second year student at San Diego State University, was hired to serve as DeMaio’s regional political director and tweeted happily about the new job – a tweet that was then retweeted by DeMaio.  This, as DeMaio quickly learned, was a mistake, as the San Diego City Beat reviewed Hahs twitter account and discovered some very offensive tweets.  Among them:

  • “Who wants to drink Vodka tonight? Must have a vagina though.”
  • “#smartniggaprobzz”
DeMaio Campaign Offensive Twitter Staff

The caption of this image reads “Fuckin Jews”

DeMaio Campaign Offensive Twitter Staff 2


Hahs quickly deleted his twitter account and was also fired from his job.  In a statement, DeMaio campaign spokesman Dave McCulloch said, ““After learning of this individual’s clearly offensive and inappropriate tweets, the offer of employment was rescinded.”  McCulloch then pivoted to attack Rep. Peters, saying that the Peters campaign was attempting to “smear Carl with what a college student tweets before he started his employment shows how desperate Scott Peters is to distract voters from his record.”

Two important points here.  First, before any political staff makes a hire, review the social media of your potential new employee (local, state and federal laws permitting).  This is just common sense, and particularly if you are in a public position: the last thing you want is for someone as racist and/or foolish, like Hahs, to be your public face.

Second, however, is a more subtle and work-intensive point.  If you are in government or politics, be careful with what you retweet.  This scandal first came to light when DeMaio retweeted Hahs – otherwise, it probably never would have made news.  This isn’t the first time a campaign has gotten dinged for retweeting someone: Chris McDaniel, former candidate for Senate in Mississippi, retweeted a tweet from a pretty racist account, and took heat for it.  So, if you are in government or politics, it is always worth it to give a quick look over for any account before you retweet it.  Labor intensive?  Yep.  Also worth it to avoid a scandal.

What do you think – too much work for a retweet?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments!


Oops! Need to delete a tweet? Read this first.

The standard wisdom on deleting tweets is this: It’s a bad idea.  After all, social media is all about transparency, and deleting a tweet would seem to being a slap in the face of that transparency.

I disagree – to a point.  Deleting a tweet as a cover up is a bad idea, absolutely.  It probably won’t work, as anyone who happened to reload their timeline before you deleted the tweet will still see it (and screenshot it), while deleted tweets can still show up in a search.  However, deleting a tweet, while acknowledging that it was deleted, apologizing and condemning its content, is appropriate.

Take this case with Texas Governor Rick Perry: Someone on the Governor’s social media team tweeted out an offensive and inaccurate picture about a District Attorney who was at the center of Governor Perry’s recent indictment.  Shortly after the tweet was sent out, it was deleted and replaced with this message:

Rick Perry Deleted Tweet

I’d call this a pretty good response to an unauthorized tweet.  Look at everything that the Governor managed to cram into 140 characters:

  1. The post was unauthorized, and as such, not reflective of anything the Governor thought or felt.
  2. The tweet was not condoned, further confirming that the Governor didn’t believe in its message.
  3. The tweet had been deleted, and the Governor acknowledged as much.

The implication is clear: The tweet was deleted because it was unauthorized.  To that end, the tweet deletion was pretty transparent: it happened because it was unauthorized, and the Governor was not trying to hide anything.

This is the right way to delete a tweet. You do it as an acknowledgement that it went wrong, with a note of contrition or apology.  I think this tweet would have been more effective if it also included an apology, but hey, there’s only so much you can get into 140 characters.

I also believe that deleting a tweet can help stop slow a story’s spread, as it makes it harder to be found, and harder to be retweeted (though not impossible).  Again, it also serves as an acknowledgement that you did something offensive, inappropriate or wrong.  As long as you aren’t trying to engage in a cover-up, deleting a tweet is, in my opinion, okay.

What do you think – do I have this right? Let me know in the comments!

Making your point: 6 ways elected officials can use social media for advocacy

Every elected official has their pet issues that are of vital importance to them.  Some are broad, like education.  Others are smaller and more focused, like financial literacy or preventing teen pregnancy.  As elected officials, we also have more in common with the people we represent then you might think at first blush: We are constantly trying to influence the opinion of the public, and of other decision makers.

While social media can be useful for influencing public opinion, it’s doubtful (and inefficient from a time perspective) that anyone will change the mind of someone on the staff of the House Speaker, or in the Governor’s office, because of a Facebook post.  What is more likely, however, is that an elected official will influence some members of the public while positioning yourself as a knowledgeable, passionate person in a certain field.

To that end, here are six tips on how elected officials can use social media for advocacy:

1) All politics is local: Former Speaker Tip O’Neill’s advice remains as relevant today as it did when he first uttered those words.  Broad based policy is vitally important, but if you can’t connect your advocacy back to your constituents, the advice won’t connect.  Any posting you make about any legislation should tie back to your district.

2) Don’t be afraid to get an edge: As I wrote last week, I think people hate when a politician sounds too polished, and while I wouldn’t advise over-doing it, don’t be afraid to get angry and get passionate if that is how you feel.  Just…don’t sound like a robot.  People tune you out.

3) Make it personal and emotional: Cold facts and figures don’t always ring true for people, and while they can be helpful in making an argument, don’t over-rely on numbers when making a policy point. Instead, make your posts personal: tie them into a story of yours, or a constituents.  Additionally, appeal to someone’s emotions: their compassion, anger or sense of fairness.  That post will hit home more than any other.

4) Be proactive, not reactive: Of course, as elected officials, we have to react to news stories in an environment that we exhibit very little control over: current events will (and should) always trump an editorial calendar.  However, every post should not be about a news story, as you want to look like a leader, not someone who is just controlled by whatever is in the news.  Be proactive in the vast majority of your posts.

5) Rope in others: If possible, tag or mention other elected officials or advocates who are as passionate about an issue as you. This should get them involved, and will possibly help both of you grow your audience and your reach.  If it’s something you are truly interested in discussing, coordinate with that official ahead of time and let them know that you’d love to have their response and comments.

6) Be prepared for a debate: Police generates controversy.  If you are going to make a policy post, make sure you are prepared for a debate and to respond to comments that aren’t in agreement with you.

Anything else to add?  Let me know in the comments!

Adam Harper Racist Facebook Post

Police officer’s racist rant leads to his resignation

Until recently, Adam Harper was a police officer in Warrington, Georgia.  That changed after this racist rant:

Adam Harper Racist Facebook Post

Not that the above statement would be acceptable under any circumstances, but the fact that Warrington is roughly 70% African American certainly didn’t help.

Naturally, citizens of Warrington took exception to the remarks.  According to published stories, residents of Warrington were upset and accused Harper of “provoking [a] situation,” with others fearing that Harper could become a police officer elsewhere if the incident was not on his record. Some residents said that they felt threatened by Harper, with one African-American saying that he received eight tickets from him.

After the initial comments, Warrington police began an investgiation into Harper’s post, as well as comments made by a second officer.  It was in the middle of that investigation that Harper made the decision to resign.  In a written statement, Harper said: “My original point was to share my opinion on the Michael Brown shooting and to let fellow law enforcement officers know that it is okay to defend yourself if forced to do so.”

He then apologized for two specific items:

The first is my use of profane language on a social media outlet. The second thing I would like to apologize for is offending some people with my opinion.

Of course, what is missing is an apology for being blatantly racist, but that’s another issue all together.

Normally, I deal specifically with government officials and elected office holders.  You could, however, make the argument that the consequences for a racist Facebook post by a police officer is even more serious than one by an elected official.  Police officers are public employees, and as such, their comments on social media, like the rest of their behavior, are held to a higher standard.  This is even more true in the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting, and it is very easy to see why any community would be extra sensitive to racist remarks made by a police officer.

If there is any law enforcement officer reading this now, here’s the lesson: social media comments can cost you your career. You must exhibit extreme caution with what you say and how you say it.