Jill Kelley Talks to Howard Kurtz: The Perils of Staying Silent
It’s about time, Jill.
We’ve long forgotten about you and your 30,000 e-mails with Gen. John Allen. Your call to your shirtless FBI friend to tell him about the harassing e-mails you received from someone telling you to stay away from David Petraeus. Your bitter feud with Paula Broadwell. That’s how the story happened, right?
No, you say?
Now we know, according to your Daily Beast interview with our contributor, Howard Kurtz, that you never exchanged 30,000 emails with Allen. More like a few hundred – and his wife as copied on many of them. That you didn’t know even know Broadwell, Petraeus’ lover, before she sent you those threatening messages that led you to blow the whistle with the FBI and cost him his job as CIA director.
Well, why the heck did it take you so long to set the record straight?
What a mess. And it all could have been mitigated if you had employed crisis communications rule 101: Get your side of the story out, tell it fiercely, and change the unfolding media narrative.
My guess is that hiding under the covers, crying, and turning off the phones won out. Yet I applaud you for battling the instinct to bury your head for all of history.
Your interview took guts. You put fear aside, stood up for yourself, and did not let the messy process of putting yourself back in front of the public eye stop you from keeping quiet. Bet you still have butterflies in your stomach.
Yours is a textbook case of what happens when a regular gal caught up in a scandal is thrust under the media microscope. Situations like yours are why communications professionals worth their salt live in fancy houses. You needed one of those when the story broke three months ago.
It’s still not quite clear to me what those anonymous e-mails said. Or why Broadwell was so jealous of you. Or why you didn’t press charges against her for turning your life — and that of your family — upside down. Seems to me you were thrown under the bus. But you’re still not telling the whole story, right?
Same thing with your constant communication with America’s top general in Afghanistan. The media have run with reports quoting sources as saying they were flirtatious and sexy. But you say they were tame. Allen is under investigation. What’s the real story? Why not show us some if they were so innocent?
Okay, the media coverage has been sensationalized and, apparently, sometimes wrong. But now that you’ve taken this courageous step of coming forward, I bet you start to breathe normally again. You have a taste for controlling your reputation by not allowing situations define or bully you. Good for you. Bet it makes you feel better.
Timid women in the limelight need to take a page from your recent playbook and learn how to fight back. Maybe then it won’t be just the men who rehabilitate their reputations. Donna Rice Hughes, once known for sitting on Gary Hart’s lap on the yacht Monkey Business, became a crusader for keeping the Internet safer for children. Many other former paramours have never been heard from again.
One more thing, Jill. Get ready for the next wave of criticism and backlash. Don’t forget that when it comes at you, the media will be ready to amplify your voice as loudly as Beyonce’s when she belted out the national anthem at the inauguration.
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