Peter Pace produces peck of putrid publicity

If you’re any kind of news junkie, you know that Peter Pace doesn’t have much use for gay people. But hell, he’s not the first high-ranking official to spout off on this issue, is he? What’s the big deal?

peter.jpgBig deal is that Peter is U.S. Marine General Peter Pace, who also serves as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The AP story says Pace “likened homosexuality to adultery and said the military should not condone it by allowing gays to serve openly in the armed forces.”

Welcome to 1957!

Needless to say, gay right groups are plenty pissed at Peter’s proclamation. A spokesperson for the Legal Defense Network called the remarks “outrageous, insensitive and disrespectful to the 65,000 lesbian and gay troops now serving in our armed forces.”

But there is hope.

If you surf the AP wire today you’ll find another story that carries an underlying message of harmony between the gay and straight worlds. Seems that straight folks are moving into San Fran’s Castro District, long a haven for the gay community. A central point of the story is that society is losing its NEED gay neighborhoods, since gay lifestyles are largely in the open these days.

Unless, of course, you choose to serve your country’s armed forces.

So, if you’re Peter’s public affairs practitioner and you inherit this peck of pickled publicity, what do you do?

I feel for any PR professional asked to defend a position that seems so morally indefensible. But if you’re a lowly captain at the Pentagon, you’re hardly in a position to tell the top brass to grow up. Speaking up for gay rights in this case could be career suicide.

As I often tell my students, choose your employers carefully. As their advocate, it’s your job to deliver their key messages. And too often, you don’t have any influence on the policies from which those messages grow.

If those messages and policies keep you awake at night, it’s time to move on.


7 Responses to Peter Pace produces peck of putrid publicity

  1. steven a. geracoulis says:

    Talking about “marally indefensible” I think General Pace spoke his honest opinoin, which is his right! I agree with him! As christians this is what we believe. I am not a “born again”. I am a christian Orthodox.

    Thanks Steve

  2. Bill Sledzik says:

    I’m not going there, Steve. It’s like arguing abortion & gun control. You just go round in circles and you never solve a thing. You have your opinion & I have mine. And in my opinion, no group in the human race deserves such treatment.

    This blog is NOT about gay rights or Pentagon bashing. It’s about public relations. And the Pentagon, thanks to General Pace, now has a major PR problem. His views were, in fact, his personal opinion. He has stated that. But when you’re the top guy, you’re tied to the organization. Pace’s job is to implement policy, and along with that, to communicate in a fashion consistent with that policty. While I disagree with “don’t ask don’t tell,” it’s a long way from calling gays immoral.

    Pace’s words will have consequences that play out in the court of public opinion. An apology would have helped. But he rejected that option. That makes it a PR problem I’m glad I don’t have to defend.

  3. Are PIOs actively involved in PRSA and other circles? Without knowing, my gut feeling would be “probably not.” Maybe we as practitioners need to reach out to our uniformed professional peers and send’em through our own style of PR boot camp.

  4. Bill Sledzik says:

    Actually, they are involved, Dino. We just don’t see them much here in the Midwest. I met 3-4 public affairs officers at the IPR conference this past weekend — all students in a 1-year master’s program at San Diego State. All very thoughtful guys and all focused on PR research and PR ethics. Every one of them impressed the hell out of me.

    I’ve met quite a few military folks at national PRSA events — even spoke to the Air Force Worldwide Public Affairs Conference a few years back. I’ve come to admire the way the military has worked hard to elevate its level of practice and its professionalism. But it doesn’t matter when your top guy goes off script as General Pace did. Now I see he’s offering a semi-apology for injecting his “personal” views into official discussion.

    Too bad. The PR folks in our military are, for the most part, very good at what they do. But there isn’t much they can do about this one.

  5. I stand corrected. Maybe I should’ve stuck with ROTC after all 🙂

  6. I thought that General Pace did an admiral job of expressing his personal views on a sensitive subject. Sure, certain lawmakers and gay advocacy groups may disagree with his statements, but the general, though bold in his opinion, didn’t eliminate the possibility of further discussion on “don’t ask, don’t tell.” I think one quandary with the debate over gay rights is that the participants generally use a rhetoric that tramples the personal beliefs of others and cuts off the possibilities for further discourse. General Pace, however, did not, and with America in a moral decay, I was thrilled to someone in power break from the sterilized, solely-secular vocabulary that is so prevalent in today’s society. I blogged about the same topic at

  7. Bill Sledzik says:

    OK, Mike. I know the Marines are a branch of the Navy, but I’m not ready to rate Pace’s performance on the gay issue as “admiral.” Best I can give it is “seaman” — maybe seaman first class. Sorry. Couldn’t help myself.

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