Recently, my crisis communications class has been investigating the Wounded Warrior Project crisis. To further analyze the scandal, I decided to use Benoit’s Image Restoration Strategy.
An investigation done by CBS News found that the Wounded Warrior Project only used 60 percent of its donations towards its cause. It was found that the rest of the money was being spent on lavish hotel rooms, fine dining and drinking, and other extravagant parties and expenses. I indeed spotted examples of image restoration in this scandal, but not necessarily in a way that benefited the organization’s reputation. In Benoit’s first step of denial, there is what’s called “simple denial”. On the WWP’s website, they made a statement that the claims that CBS News made about them were false. They shifted the blame by saying that they didn’t do anything wrong and that CBS was just exaggerating things. They also shifted the blame by notifying supporters of “fraud alert” they had received to distract from the controversy.
In Benoit’s second step of “evade responsibility,” there is provocation, defeasibility, accident and good intentions. In this step the WWP decided to focus on their good intentions. In their interview with CBS, they decided to repeatedly say “it’s the best use of donor dollars to ensure we are providing programs and services to our warriors and families at the highest quality.” However, this was a very vague response. They were trying to claim that they had good intentions but they weren’t doing a good job at it. It was the only response they could come up with,
In step three, to avoid offensiveness, they tried to reduce the credibility of the accuser (CBS News) by posting a video on their social media called “What CBS News didn’t show you.” They also tweeted that they demanded a retraction from CBS News of the false statements they had claimed. This just looked like they were trying to play the victim and that CBS was in the wrong for making these statements.
In the fourth step for corrective action, they decided to hire a crisis communications team. A bit late, but at least they got one. They also made a statement on their website that said they promised a “thorough and financial review.” The biggest news however, is that they dismissed their CEO Steve Nardizzi and their COO Al Giordano. It was the right move so they could start a new way of organization for their nonprofit.
For mortification, they never directly apologized. Overall, the Wounded Warrior Project did not defend their image successfully. If they had sounded sincerer, proactive and apologetic they could have had a different, more positive outcome. They were not acting ethically because they chose an action that made them lose trust with their supporters and donors. They weren’t using their donations in the way that they were intended to be used, and they lied about the spending. They didn’t have respect for their clients nor the public. To relate this to consequentialism, their actions were judged by their consequences. They decided to spend their donation money lavishly, which resulted in an unethical outcome. They did not foresee the consequences of their actions.
Gardner, L. (2016, February 04). Wounded Warrior Project board hires PR firm. Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://www.news4jax.com/news/investigations/news4jax-investigates-wounded-warrior-project__
Reid, C. (2016, January 26). Wounded Warrior Project accused of wasting donation money. Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/wounded-warrior-project-accused-of-wasting-donation-money/
Forrest, R. (2016, January 27). Sage. Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://sagecrone.blogspot.com/2016/01/discernment-and-nonprofits.html?m=1
Newswire, P. (2016, February 1). Wounded Warrior Project Board of Directors Issues Statement. Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/wounded-warrior-project-board-of-directors-issues-statement-300212819.html
#WWPFacts. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/scam-information.aspx