If you’ve turned on any news station within the last week, you’ve heard of the General Petraeus scandal. General David Petraeus, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq resigned as the CIA director due to a pending FBI investigation. The investigation started because of email messages stating the General Petraeus was having an extramarital affair with his biographer. The General confessed to the affair but still testified in Congress about the attacks in Benghazi, Libya on September 11. Additionally, esteemed General John Allen is also under investigation for sending inappropriate messages to another woman. Thanks to this investigation, General Allen’s nomination for NATO’s supreme allied chief has been put on hold by the Obama administration
This is not the first time powerful, political figures were involved in scandals. However, both Generals are known for their moral character and giving speeches about integrity and honesty. With the new information about both, people will begin to question their reputations and legacies. While I do not condone any kind of infidelity, I wonder how public a political figure’s life needs to be. Granted, this person chose to be in a position of power that came with fame and media attention. Because of this, every move this person makes is viewed under a microscope. More than likely, people in the spotlight do not think through the consequences of their actions before participating in less than desirable activities. I do believe that is what happened to both General Petraeus and General Allen. Perhaps they forgot that their private lives can be made public very quickly.
The question now is what to do next. From a public relations or crisis communications standpoint, both Generals need to sincerely apologize to the public and admit their wrongdoings. They need to concentrate on spending time with their families and going through the healing process. Any statements sent to the media must focus on regaining the trust of people and recovering with their families. Humans are not perfect and they do make mistakes. Generals are not exempted from these mistakes.
Infidelity is a problem that plagues society today. The scandals involving General Petraeus and General Allen can serve as teaching moments for all Americans especially the younger generation. Cheating is wrong and if the CIA Director can get caught, so can any average American. While it’s true people do make mistakes, everyone must strive to protect their marriage vows. These political leaders and others in the spotlight are examples of what not to do. We shall see if these generals can recover and continue their careers in Washington.