Humor can be a terrific PR tool for disarming a controversy. Artfully done, it can show the world that you don’t take yourself too seriously and possess humility. It is mea culpa lite, still bringing closure with half the defensiveness of a direct apology. And it can make subsequent criticism seem humorless.
Last night on Jay Leno’s show, Senator Clinton used this time honored tactic in an attempt to disarm criticism of her inaccurate memory of being under fire on an airstrip in Bosnia during a foreign policy trip.
This controversy actually seemed to have died off on it’s own prior to the Leno appearance. This is a very good thing for the Senator. The more you think about her error, the more inexplicable it seems. We all forget things, but being shot at tends to be a pretty memorable event. Still, her opponent wasn’t hitting her on it, and the story didn’t have a lot of legs.
Given all of that, is this use of humor disarming, or arming? (Note: Only the first minute of this clip is relevant.)