Here’s where the Susan G. Komen Foundation blew it in the controversy over their funding for Planned Parenthood — they made the grant dependent on whether the grantee was the subject of a federal, state, or local “investigation.” That’s too low a bar to disqualify anyone. Basing the decision on that would like getting a mastectomy just because you went in for a breast exam, without waiting to see what the results showed.
Years ago, I was negotiating the renewal of my radio contract with the company that had recently taken over our broadcasting group. That meant new lawyers who I had never dealt with before. It was obvious they hadn’t looked over my previous contract, because the wording was entirely different and didn’t include much of what I’d negotiated in the prior term. There was something else that caught my eye — a clause that said they could fire me if I were ever accused of a crime, because that might affect the reputation of the radio station.
I told them in no uncertain terms that I wouldn’t agree to that. Not because I was likely to commit a crime, but because of the word “accused.” Anyone can be accused of anything, even charged with a crime by police. But in a nation where we’re all supposed to be presumed innocent, I wasn’t going to give them the power to yank the job out from under me before I’d been found guilty of anything. So I told them I’d agree if they changed “accused” to “convicted,” and if they added “…of a felony,” because “a crime” could include a speeding ticket. After some back and forth with my attorney, they agreed, the verbiage was changed, and we all went on to make great radio and plenty of money together.
Today, when Komen founder Nancy Brinker apologized to Planned Parenthood and announced that the funding would be reinstated, she included this in her statement:
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.
What she didn’t say:
We blew it by forgetting that our mission was to save women from breast cancer and nothing else. It wasn’t until our own fundraising efforts and public perception were endangered that we realized this, but we’re back on track now and would appreciate it if you pretended this whole incident never happened.
The damage has been done, but there’s one more thing Komen should do — fire everyone on the executive group that made this decision in the first place for putting the future of the charity in peril. That would go a long way towards repairing the image that Komen has worked so hard to promote.
But Komen has another PR problem. There’s a documentary by Lea Pool opening today in Canada (and probably later this year in the US) entitled “Pink Ribbons Inc.” which takes the organization to task for raising millions of dollars but not accounting for where the money goes. It says Komen is a corporation that helps other corporations make money by wrapping themselves in pink, and raises the question of why breast cancer rates have risen from 1 in 22 women in 1940 to 1 in 8 women today. Here’s the trailer…