Optics vs. Ethics

Meeting by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and President of the United States of America Donald Trump, Washington, May 10, 2017. Photo courtesy of МИД России / MFA Russia.

I am sure the Republican Leaders in the House and Senate cringed when they saw the front-page photos (print edition only) of the president yucking it up with Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. The photo captions noted that the photos were supplied by the Russian Government and the Tass News Agency because American Journalists were barred from the meeting. All this occurred the day after Trump fired FBI Director Comey, clearly over his comments about the investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. election.

From a communications standpoint, I imagine the Republican leaders in Congress and the White House recoil from the “optics” of such a chummy gathering and that it made front page news in spite of efforts to cover it up. But, the issue isn’t optics, it’s ethics. Every day the drip, drip, drip of ethics (and probably legal) violations dominate the news cycle. I imagine White House staff got dressed down for the “bad optics.” But, the best way to promote good coverage is to do good things, promote good policies, and operate with decent values and ethical standards. The best PR is no match for the truth when the truth is so incredibly bad.