There seems to be a constant stream of public relations scandals streaming out of Washington D.C. these days. Yet, every once in a while, a headline jumps out as more than a bit unusual.
This occurred when it was announced that the U.S. House of Representatives would fire its longtime chaplain, the Rev. Pat Conroy. Or, that is, at least "accepting"his resignation.
The "suggested resignation" came shortly after Rev. Conroy publicly expressed his frustration with one of U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s aides, saying the congressional staffer told Conroy it was 'time we had a Chaplain that wasn’t a Catholic . . . "
When Conroy’s comments went public, millions of Catholics – a staunch conservative voting bloc – were livid, made more so after Ryan demanded Conroy’s resignation. Ryan claimed, at the time, to be “dissatisfied with the Chaplain’s pastoral care . . ." He added, "This was not about politics or prayers, it was about pastoral services. And a number of our members felt like the pastoral services were not being adequately served, or offered . . . "
Many lawmakers and voters were not buying that line of reasoning, and suddenly the question of what to do about the Chaplain, and what Ryan really thought about having a Catholic Chaplain, was making headlines.
Ryan, already battling political and public relatons issues all his own, abruptly changed direction, releasing a statement retracting his demand for Rev. Conroy’s resignation. In this message, Ryan said, "It is my job as speaker to do what is best for this body, and I know that this body is not well served by a protracted fight over such an important position . . . "
Ryan’s comments followed a letter from Conroy, telling his side of the "aide comments" story. In the letter, ostensibly addressed to Ryan, but quickly made public, Conroy said the aide in question, Jonathan Burks, told Conroy the Speaker wanted him to resign over, in part, a prayer the Chaplain led that, Burks said, offered a negative view of the GOP tax bill.
Conroy says he asked Burks if that was the cause of Ryan’s disapproval. Burks, according to Conroy, then said the bit about it being "time for a Chaplain that wasn’t a Catholic . . . "
It’s an interesting conundrum for Ryan, who, regardless of what happens this November, is already on his way out. Just how frustrating does he want his final months in Congress to be?
Clearly, this is not an issue about which Ryan wants any drama.
Burks, naturally, denied having said any such thing, claiming to have remembered the conversation differently. Ryan, meanwhile, has said he plans to meet with Rev. Conroy soon, hoping to clear the air and get things back on track.
Ronn Torossian is one of America’s foremost Public Relations executives as founder/CEO of 5WPR, a leading independent public relations Agency. The firm was honored as PR Firm of the Year by The American Business Awards, and has been named to the Inc. 500 List. Torossian is author of the best-selling "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations." For more of Ronn Torossian's reports, Go Here Now.
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