Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
Question: Why do politicians so often mishandle scandal?
Matthew Nisbet: Well, I think everyone's human, so obviously they are prone initially to certain gut reactions, they're probably not very strategic on how they handle that scandalous information or that controversy and they really need a third party advising them who's studied a lot of different cases and incidents of scandals and we're starting to see kind of generalizable strategies. First get all the information out there and be truthful and, you know, there's a whole growing field of crisis communication now. And I think it- it's like anything else that you really probably need to prepare for crisis and you need to have a plan in place that you can adapt to the situation when a crisis or a scandal does occur and if you're not prepared, you're going to make a lot of mistakes.
Last week I spoke with Elana Schor of Greenwire about the Obama White House and Organizing for America's strategy to pre-empt efforts by conservatives to undermine support for the proposed EPA limits on greenhouse...