[Newsletter] 6.18.24 | “I am not stupid,”

June 17, 2024

This month we feature BLUNDERs from Bumble to anti-sunscreen influencers, as well as a Major League baseball player who got caught both doing and saying the wrong thing. Congress continues to make headlines for the wrong reasons and lastly, we cover when you should focus on your reputation. Hint—it’s always sooner than you think.


“I am not stupid,” said Issa Amro, a Palestinian activist for non-violence.

This heartbreaking example of the power of negative words and the way we hear denials comes from a long and disturbing article. The incident that generated this quote comes from the charge of resisting an arrest by Israeli soldiers. Issa Amro testified that he said, “I am not stupid,” and the soldier claimed Amro said, “You are stupid.” It didn’t end well. Interestingly, this took place in a courtroom.

The New York Times, “Where is the Palestinian Ghandi?,” May 1, 2024


Called the “bumble fumble”, the dating site Bumble was trying to get women interested in dating and ran a campaign poking fun at celibacy. “Thou shalt not give up on dating and become a nun,” read one ad. Unfortunately, many people interpreted the language as urging women to, well, provide more than good company on a date. The reaction was brutal and swift. Despite the misstep, we think Bumble apologized quickly and authentically. “We made a mistake. Our ads referencing celibacy were an attempt to lean into a community frustrated by modern dating and bring joy and humor. Unintentionally we did the opposite.” In addition to the apology, they made donations to several charitable organizations. Finally, was Elizabeth Taylor, right? There is no such thing as bad publicity. When did you last see Bumble in the news and on the front page? Hmm…

USA Today, “Bumble drops controversial ad poking fun at celibacy, abstinence, issues apology,” May 14, 2024

“There is no PROOF the sun causes cancer,” was the caption on an anti-sunscreen video, part of a growing movement to shun sunscreen. To the horror of dermatologists, the video – which got a million views – promotes the theory that sunscreen either causes cancer or is unnatural. As someone with extremely fair skin which burns and peels, I have used the most powerful sunscreen available for decades, plus as someone interested in the use of language to drive memory, I first read this article and thought it was a counter to the ‘anti’ movement rather than an advocate. Given how denials are heard, readers may absorb “the sun causes cancer,” which would be the right message for health.

The Wall Street Journal, “Influencers Are Saying Sunscreen Causes Cancer. They Are Wrong,” May 19, 2024


“Not a good look” (for Congress) was how Speaker Mike Johnson characterized a bickering match instigated by Representative Majorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. Greene decided to insult Representative Jasmine Crockett of Texas during an evening House Oversight committee meeting by saying that Crockett must be having trouble reading because of her fake eyelashes. That prompted Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York to enter the fight and insults flew despite the Chair’s effort to caution Members against personal comments, to which Ms. Crockett asked, “If someone on this committee then starts talking about somebody’s bleach-blonde, bad built, butch body, that would not be engaging in personalities, correct?” The Speaker’s description of ‘not a good look’ doesn’t do it justice.

The New York Times, Oversight After Dark’: Lawmakers Hurl Insults at Session,” May 17, 2024


Mets player Jorge Lopez got himself tossed from a game because he threw his glove into the stands after a loss. He compounded the situation at a press conference by calling his own team the worst in the ‘whole f—ing MLB’. He tried to walk it back by saying he was the worst “teammate,” but we don’t see how that improves the situation. After the first display of temper – which ensnares all of us! – he should have apologized and said, “I lost my temper. I apologize. I recognize I have to set a good example, and I’ll do better in the future.”, “Mets reliever Jorge López denies calling own team worst in ‘whole f—ing MLB’ after glove-throwing tirade,” May 30 2024


Check out the Wall Street Journal’s “How Television Advertising Lost Its Relevance,” by Suzanne Vranica. While the whole article is interesting, pay particular interest to the paragraphs about Taco Bell’s shift to social-media advertising. “The one-way communication of TV where brands talk to consumers about something doesn’t work as well anymore,” said chief Taco Bell Marketing officer, Taylor Montgomery. Taco Bell wants its ads to generate a two-way dialogue with consumers going to social media to post and comment on videos about products they like or join in on the discussion. Why is this relevant to you and your organization? Because the same dynamic applies to your communication with employees. It’s never been more important for them to be your advocates and ambassadors and that means interactivity in everything from HR communications to presentations to one-on-one conversations.

The Wall Street Journal, “How Television Advertising Lost Its Relevance,” May 12, 2024


“Exclusive: Rep. Justin Holland Denies Corruption Allegations” read the headline in The Dallas Express. This is another example of why negative news and so-called “bad words” prevail. The article is about a dispute over handling the sale of a property and the article gives Mr. Holland space to try to explain his side, although the language of what constitutes a ‘discount’ is confusing to us not in the real estate business. It’s one more example of the importance of reputation and the fact that solidifying your reputation starts before you have an issue. For ongoing advice, please subscribe to our podcast “Reputation Matters.” You’ll hear great advice from top professionals in their field.

The Dallas Express, “Exclusive: Rep. Justin Holland Denies Corruption Allegations,” May 17, 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.