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The epic downward spiral of Susan G. Komen for the Cure: how to #FAIL (updated w/Komen ‘apology’)

BREAKING (11:15 AM ET): Komen backed down in a statement first published in the Dallas Morning News. The devil, as always, is in the details as this story shows, and as we speak, evidence of loopholes is already pouring out over social networks after the announcement. Komen is still behind the PR frame. Parse the statement below the fold.

Watching Susan G. Komen for the Cure in its epic PR death spiral over the last few days has been breathtaking. For an charity that built a national brand based on a mission to cure breast cancer, and caring about the health of women, it sure went into panic mode and threw poor women under the bus to defend itself about its decision financially punish Planned Parenthood for myriad reasons, depending on what time of the day you’re asking Komen’s Nancy Brinker, whose anti-choice, anti-gay fingerprints are all over this.

I haven’t blogged about this hot mess to date (but I’ve been all over social media), because there’s a lot of great blogging and mainstream reporting that you’ve probably already tapped into. I finally boiled down my observations into one Facebook post:

This Komen meltdown is fascinating (though the overall dropkick to Planned Parenthood is horrid) because 1) the org was completely hijacked by the right-wing, and 2) I’ve never seen such a poor communications/spin in an org of that size and 3) any org this inept at seeing the PR train barreling down on it and stays on the tracks deserves to go down hard, and 4) it shows how desperate the anti-choice, womb control, anti-women’s right to reproductive control crowd is trying to find every angle to put women back in the dark ages.

One of the womb-controllers with agita over the response — Planned Parenthood’s donations are way up — including one for $250K from N.Y. Mayor Mike Bloomberg — is Matt “Bam Bam” Barber of Liberty Counsel:

@jmattbarber: Left goes berserk over Komen’s Planned Parenthood smackdown. Nothing angers liberals more than making it harder to dismember babies #Life

Really? Is this best the pious fertilized egg worshippers can do? All of the other services that Planned Parenthood provides to women in need are meaningless. It’s all about the fetus, which is precious until a woman gives birth and the Right runs for cover, clinging to its wallet to protect it from funding any social safety net.

Hey, if Komen’s against access to abortion services, it can’t complain when donors who support access to those services flee (taking along with it their hard-earned money)? Anyway, what do you think some of the Komen board members are thinking right about now (as the house burns and no fire trucks are on the way)? I’d be thinking about how to make a quick exit after the performance of Nancy Brinker in damage control mode.

This is the Komen YouTube description for its YouTube upload “Amb. Nancy G. Brinker appears on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports: February 2, 2012” – no lie. And feel the flopsweat: “In one of her first live comments since the Tuesday announcement, Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell that the decision was made to revamp and strengthen the way the organization makes grants.”

The video currently has a 82% Thumbs Down rating. #FAIL.

I tell you one thing – any org that thinks it cannot be destroyed by a social media onslaught better think again. The power it has is the potential to stop an org with an incompetent PR/Comm dept from ever getting the framing back once the mainstream media picks it up and runs with it. This burned too hot, too fast in too many social digital circles, and Komen’s response is feeble, flailing and completely, transparently seen as politically f’d up damage control.

No wonder, as Bernard Tarver noted in the earlier Facebook thread,, that this is why the government wants to put social media in check.

Statement from Nancy Brinker and the Susan G. Komen Board of Directors:

We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives.

The events of this week have been deeply unsettling for our supporters, partners and friends and all of us at Susan G. Komen. We have been distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons or to specifically penalize Planned Parenthood. They were not.

Our original desire was to fulfill our fiduciary duty to our donors by not funding grant applications made by organizations under investigation. We will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political. That is what is right and fair.

Our only goal for our granting process is to support women and families in the fight against breast cancer. Amending our criteria will ensure that politics has no place in our grant process. We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities.

It is our hope and we believe it is time for everyone involved to pause, slow down and reflect on how grants can most effectively and directly be administered without controversies that hurt the cause of women. We urge everyone who has participated in this conversation across the country over the last few days to help us move past this issue. We do not want our mission marred or affected by politics – anyone’s politics.

Starting this afternoon, we will have calls with our network and key supporters to refocus our attention on our mission and get back to doing our work. We ask for the public’s understanding and patience as we gather our Komen affiliates from around the country to determine how to move forward in the best interests of the women and people we serve.

We extend our deepest thanks for the outpouring of support we have received from so many in the past few days and we sincerely hope that these changes will be welcomed by those who have expressed their concern.


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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding