When someone becomes a public figure, they are going to compromise their private life. There is simply no way around that fact as “home” and “work” become forever intertwined and actions open to scrutiny. Whitmer administration COO Tricia Foster is the latest public figure to experience this, posting and then taking down Facebook photos of a vacation to Florida in the wake of the governor’s recent recommendations to limit travel – in particular to states such as Florida – amid rising Covid-19 cases.
Is it fair? Is it politically motivated? You’ll get a different answer no matter whom you ask. As we counsel our clients, one must consider the potential ramifications of one’s actions, especially a public figure- even more so when you are an elected official. You can’t turn private and public off and on like a light switch. What you say and do can be recorded with a cell phone and or followed on social media in the blink of an eye – no matter where you are or what you are doing. And, that extends beyond public figures to anyone representing or working on behalf of a company.
Did Ms. Foster and her family deserve time away together? Don’t we all. And I’m not judging. Yet, like Ted Cruz’s infamous and ill-conceived mini-vacation during the Texas crisis, the optics are simply not good – regardless of CDC guidelines and who got which shot when. And lest someone tries to use the term “cancel culture” I would ask that rather than “cancel” they consider substituting the word “consequence” instead. It’s the world we live in today for better or worse. And please don’t blame the media.
To close, I’ll borrow from and slightly alter a famous line that I feel is apropos for any such situation and perhaps should serve as a message to all of us as we conduct ourselves in our daily lives: To err is human, to think before we act, divine. Good judgment today is paramount – as the stakes have perhaps never been higher nor the spotlight brighter.