passed the scandal, save your career


New York (AFP)

Actor Liam Neeson has been scandalous in quoting a racist episode from his past and must now save his career, a challenge many celebrities before him have taken in a show world softer than the company.

"Kill" a "black bastard." Liam Neeson's words, which referred to his state of mind more than 40 years ago, following the rape of a friend by a black man, continue to resonate on the media scene six days later.

The British comedian's apology on TV the next day, claiming he was "not racist," calmed some, but others admitted nothing.

For black director Ava DuVernay, Liam Neeson is a symbol of the "white privilege," which would lead opinion to accept whites that no one would tolerate for a Negro.

On social networks, several people asked that their scenes from the upcoming "Men In Black" be returned with another actor.

"Do not be surprised if someone does not want to work with you," Regina King told The Independent in an interview with Liam Neeson.

"Acts are often more damaging than statements," says Joseph Caobsky, a professor at the University of North Carolina, who specializes in public relations. "But Neeson's case is quite unique because what he said was related to his conduct."

In the opinion of several experts in crisis management, the television interview given the day after the controversy was, nevertheless, a good start.

"In a world where everything is instantaneous, we must act faster than before," said Ronn Torosian, founder of the 5WPR agency, for which the current media context makes it necessary to have a communicator, which it is itself.

"He must continue to apologize," he says, "and make it clear that he made a mistake rather than try to defend himself or give context to his remarks."

"Actions are more than words," says Steve Jaffe of Jaffe & Company. "He must know organizations that are engaged in dialogue around racism."

A strategy that can only work, say experts, if perceived as sincere and not opportunistic.

– favorable precedents –

At this point, none of Liam Neeson's current projects seems threatened by the scandal.

"The reputation you had before the crisis was critical," says Steve Jaffe, who worked with Bill Clinton. "It's easier to hear an apology from a good guy" or perceived as such, "rather than someone who seems to be just trying to keep his job."

Several actors and directors came to the aid of the North Irish comedian, including black actress Whoopi Goldberg.

Mark Hass, a professor of strategic communication at Arizona State University, says celebrities generally enjoy a special tolerance of the public.

"I think the media swirl will disappear as quickly as it is formed," he predicts from Liam Neeson.

Beyond the world of cinema, musicians or politicians also enjoy relative impunity for their comments.

"Just look at Donald Trump," says Mark Hass, who makes a clear distinction from the corporate world.

"The difference is that bosses usually have a board that can fire them," he says. "This is not the case with celebrities such as Liam Neeson, Mel Gibson or Kanye West."

Mel Gibson is thus quoted by many as the ultimate example of a resurrection.

Author of homophobic, racist and anti-Semitic statements accused of domestic violence, the actor and director was considered, in 2006, persona non grata in Hollywood.

But after nearly a decade of crossing the desert, he came back with a flourish in 2016 and is once again part of the larger Hollywood family.

Actor Gary Oldman or rapper Kanye West had their controversy, but they did not leave the landscape.

And if we extend the spectrum to sexist or homophobic, they are several dozen to go through the cracks, despite controversies sometimes violent at the moment.

Joseph Cabosky cites the case of Kevin Hart, caught in a controversy in early December, surrounding old homophobic comments and who gave up shortly after presenting the Oscar ceremony.

"His film, + The Upside + came out only a few weeks later," he recalls, "and did a lot better than expected."


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