[Newsletter] 3.12.24 | “I’m not flacking for Putin,”

March 6, 2024

Even though there was an extra day in February, this is one of our shortest memos in a while. Does that mean people are listening to us? And alas, there aren’t any of the screamingly funny comments we dearly love, but the examples we have for you are all excellent learning ones and especially useful for C-suite counseling. The last one lets us tip our hat to lawyers, who deserve a nod since we’re so often calling them out.


“I’m not flacking for Putin,” claimed former Fox News star Tucker Carlson facing widespread criticism for doing a two-hour interview with Russian president Vladimir Putin. The session which has been widely aired, excerpted and written about started with a one-hour rant by Putin. Carlson did get in a number of probing questions but left out several ‘must ask’ topics. Despite the debate about the wisdom of legitimizing Putin’s position by such an interview, we understand Carlson’s reasons. Obviously he wanted attention which he certainly got, and it’s why we’re designating the comment as this month’s winning blunder which is probably an accolade he didn’t want.

The Daily Signal, “What Surprised Tucker Carlson Most About His Putin Interview,” February 8, 2024


“I’m not suicidal,” said political activist James O’Keefe, in a lengthy email with that phrase as the subject line and in the body of the very long rant. No need to reprise the subject matter – summed up: his argument is that he’s a true conservative, people are jealous of his success and have targeted him, he’s very brave…and so on. Given the number of people who have taken their own lives, we don’t recommend using the word particularly in this self-aggrandizing way. “‘I’m Not Suicidal’: James O’Keefe Meets With Senators Following Pfizer Release,” February 13, 2024

“I don’t want to take a cheap shot,” said Republican Senator of North Carolina, Thom Tillis commenting on the report by a special prosecutor looking into President Biden’s retention of classified documents in his garage and finding he did so “willfully.” “I’m not one who gets personal. But when it’s so profound, that you have a prosecutor take note of it, I think it’s something to pay attention to,” adding “I’m not trying to take a cheap shot. …Let’s say that was the CEO of a company. What would their board of directors be asking for this evening?” Tillis said. The Senator made it a cheap shot by claiming that wasn’t what he intended. “Biden tries to lay to rest age concerns, but may have exacerbated them,” February 9, 2024

“Our relationship wasn’t secret,” said attorney Nathan Wade testifying about his romantic relationship with Fulton County prosecutor Fani Willis. The relationship is now at the heart of a challenge to disqualify her from presiding over RICO charges against former President Trump and others accused of attempting to interfere with Georgia’s votes in the 2020 election. One issue is money spent on trips and vacations while he was still married and whether that counts as a remuneration (or payoff) from the prosecutor. Wrapped in this story is a lesson on statistics as it’s reported Mr. Wade was paid $650,000 for his work as an outside attorney despite having no experience in this area of law. It sounds like a lot. Is it? Depends on your frame of reference. Wade continued protesting, “it was private” which seems to reinforce the allegation. Another example of denying a negative came from Ms. Willis, “I am not a hostile witness,” on the witness stand where she came off as very determined but alas, hostile.

The Daily Signal “Confrontational Willis Fends Off Disqualification From Trump Case in Georgia Hearing,” February 15, 2024


“Managing the experts” is an area we include as we consider communication a strategic business skill. Good examples of what’s at risk are hard to come by. This Wall Street Journal story provides an excellent example. The plaintiffs’ lawyer, challenging a $55 billion pay package (right, with a ‘b’,) asked Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, a ‘yes/no’ question but then, as Musk kept talking, the lawyer, Greg Varallo, stepped back and did the counter intuitive thing; he let Musk keep talking. The tsunami of verbiage ended up contradicting facts, raising irrelevant but potentially damaging topics and making Musk look ridiculous – when his entire defense rested on promoting him as the smartest guy on the planet and one of the savviest businessmen. The article provides an excellent lesson in corporate litigation but for our purposes, it’s useful as a counseling vehicle for your C-suite principles or your star clients. There’s a good reason for the usual advice from your lawyer. In fact here, there are 55 billion of them.

The Wall Street Journal “A Lawyer Explains How He Beat Elon Musk,” February 2, 2024

“You Don’t Say” is a reminder not to repeat and deny a negative word because of how the listener hears words. When you repeat and deny a negative word, the listener is likely to overlook the denial and hear the opposite of what the speaker is trying to say.