Santa Clarita City Councilman and former mayor Bob Kellar found himself in hot water these past few days after his comments at an anti-illegal immigration rally were spread to a wider audience via You Tube.
Plenty of politicians and others have suffered the You Tube fate or other instances where a comment can be recorded and re-broadcast. This latest incident only reinforces what public relations experts and media training professionals have long advocated: Pretend the microphone is never off.
While Kellar's defendants accurately portrayed his comments as "rhetorical hyperbole" and that the elected official is known for not always speaking in the most politically correct terms, the uproar highlights the need for any individual in the public eye to assume there is a video camera or tape recorder within range of their voice.
Former CA assemblyman Mike Duvall is the most recent example of how a comment can end a career. But, if you Google "politicians caught on You Tube" you will see a host of other examples.
It's not easy for elected officials and other public figures to walk on eggshells and speak "on message" all the time. In many cases when a slip occurs, a politician is in a setting among sympathizers and supporters. In this atmosphere, the guard can come down a bit. Feeling they are among "their kind" who share their views, a public figure will feel more comfortable and "tell them how they really feel." In other instances, they mistakenly believe they are in a non-public setting. In Kellar's case, the factors converged. He was among people who supported his views on illegal immigration. It was a rally on a Saturday and he was not representing himself as a city councilman.
I suppose I should be thankful. These missteps keep me in business.