Why publicists aren't worried about stars embarrassing themselves on Twitter

Message for @Gilbert Gottfried and @50 Cent: You are what you Tweet. And, especially in Gottfried’s case, that could lead to trouble. Earlier this week, both the funnyman and the rapper used Twitter to become the center of news — though it’s likely they didn’t make the headlines they were hoping for. After some not-so-sensitive Tweets regarding the earthquake and tsunami in Japan (“I just split up with my girlfriend, but like the Japanese say, ‘They’ll be another one floating by any minute now’”), Gottfried lost his job as the Aflac duck and 50 Cent (“Its all good Till b—-es see there christian louboutins floating down da street sh– gone get crazy”) became the target of online ire. In fact, both celebrities’ Tweets were so insensitive, it’s impossible not to wonder, What were they thinking? But we imagine no one is pondering this thought more than the person responsible for the stars’ images: Their publicists.

Indeed, Twitter has introduced an interesting double-edged sword for publicists since its 2007 creation. The social networking site allows celebrities to connect to their audiences and push their projects (making their reps’ jobs that much easier), but it also gives vocal, opinionated celebrities the opportunity to embarrass themselves publicly (making their reps’ jobs that much more difficult). For every Jimmy Fallon and Mindy Kaling — stars known for using their Twitter accounts wisely — there’s a Kim Kardashian (who posted an ill-advised Tweet about breastfeeding), Kanye West (who courted controversy after Tweeting about abortion), and Courtney Love (whose Tweets led to a defamation lawsuit filed by a fashion designer).

Even considering these latter cases, however, publicists generally aren’t sweating the social networking site. “For the most part, our stars and producers know when to use the edit button on what they Tweet, and I think it’s great that they have a direct rapport with fans,” one publicist, who wished to remain anonymous, tells EW. “They are more responsible for their words and yes, it adds another layer, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. As PR executives, Twitter and other direct forms of social media now need to be part of our plan, and we even sometimes utilize their relationships and reach with the fans to get a message out. It’s a new day and you need to embrace it, because with the digital age, nothing stays a secret anymore and you don’t have the same control.”

And with the constant threat of paparazzi blasting uncompromising photos of stars online, Twitter — a site that gives famous folks some control over what is published about them on the Internet — seems the least of celebrities’ problems. “We have many clients with Twitter accounts and they get their message out there,” says Stan Rosenfield, who reps such high-profile actors as George Clooney, Robert De Niro, Geoffrey Rush, and Helen Mirren. “Everybody is doing it. [But] there are so many ways to get into trouble. People can get themselves into trouble for going into a bar and forgetting to put on their pants. Twitter doesn’t add to or take away from that.”

And it’s precisely that kind of trouble that gives publicists confidence about their future in the industry. Celebrities might take care of their own PR via Twitter, but it seems unlikely that the social networking site will ever replace the role of publicists. As Rosenfield says, “Somebody still has to drive you to the train. Somebody has to schedule the train. Facebook and Twitter cannot reason, they cannot plan, they cannot suggest. They are just vehicles.”

After all, a publicist is going to be necessary to help craft carefully worded apologies for folks like Gottfried, a comedian who has made a career out of delivering crass one-liners who nonetheless expressed remorse for his earthquake Tweets in a statement today. (50 Cent has apologized on Twitter for his statements, saying he Tweeted his comments “for shock value.”) Still, it’s refreshing for stars to have an outlet available where they can express what they want — whether we like it or not. As one publicist for A-list actors, who also wished to remain anonymous, says: “It’s certainly become a unique way for people to get their message out in an unfiltered way that excises — sometimes good, sometimes bad — whatever they’re trying to say.” That is, just so long as what you’re trying to say doesn’t poke fun at the victims of a catastrophic earthquake.

(Reporting by Lynette Rice.)

Image Credit: Chris Hatcher/PR Photos; Allen Berezovsky/PR Photos

Read more:
Gilbert Gottfried canned as Aflac duck after insensitive Japanese earthquake Tweets

Comments (43 total) Add your comment
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  • hoganbcmj

    50 Cent is a douche. He can’t even spell “their” correctly. Go back to high school and get a basic education if you want my respect. Geez.

    • John G

      The fact that you think your respect matters is mildy amusing to me.

  • john

    Plese don’t be too hard on the comdedians. They tell jokes. Sometimes their timing is off. Like during 9/11. But don’t be too hard on them for that. It’s what they do.

    • talkin’

      They need to learn when to turn it “off”.
      They are, presumably, human beings before comedians.

      • stickittotheman

        This is another one of those situations where the media did the harm, not the person who uttered the comment. Tweeting to your fans is one thing – but when every media outlet in the country re-broadcasts it, the media must take some responsibility. Oh, and so do you EW. Under the guise of “commenting” you are further spreading hate and ignorance. Why not just reprint Mein Kampf, ya tools!

      • heather

        of course, in some cases, even the “comedians” part is questionable…

    • Don Alex

      When are “jokes” about 9/11 ever “on”? When are “jokes” about the deaths of innocent people ever “on”? That’s the problem with our vapid culture, we think that everything is joke appropriate if we just wait long enough. If I had family in the towers and heard some mutt like Gottfried making “black humor” about it, Id make it my life’s quest to find him and show him how unhumorous pain and misery can be as I put a noose around his neck and dropped him down for a slow agonizing final choke. We’d find out if he’d be screaming out “Aflack” just before his final breath. Wake up and get a clue. Tomorrow, it might be YOUR family in nature’s crosshairs, and I doubt youd appreciate humor at their expense.

      • Anon Ymous

        Don Alex…I understand your point but it’s a little too extreme…as if you’ve gone from their end of the spectrum (not taking these tragedies seriously enough) to the other (calling for severe punishment for not taking it seriously enough). You’re kind of scaring me…

      • tig

        don alex you sir are gay

    • TerryT

      I don’t recall anyone making jokes about 9/11, especially when it was happening. Does Gottfried make Holocaust jokes too? I doubt it. There is a level of stupidity among comedians that is just amazing.

      • John

        Actually Gottfried was on a roast right after 9/11 and he started doing 9/11 jokes and everyone started booing and yelling “Too soon!” So this didn’t suprise me.

      • Rider

        Gilbert infamously made the first public post-9/11 joke, about three weeks later at the Hugh Hefner roast. He began his monologue joking that he had intended to catch a plane, but couldn’t get a direct flight because “they said they have to connect with the Empire State Building first.” When he realized that he had gone too far, he immediately went for broke and told his version of the Aristocrats joke. A lot of comics gave him credit for sending a clear message that it was okay to laugh again.

      • Coren Panzino

        Absolutely agree..some compassion and humility from these people would be much better!

  • Cat

    I don’t even understand what 50 cent wrote…

    • Grubi

      I didn’t either. Is it even in English? Can someone explain it to me?

      • pimpinhamtaro@yahoo.com

        let a black man translate this for you. “Everything was normal at first, but now my expensive designer shoes are floating down the street from the flooding of water. I can’t believe this is happening”

      • Sarah

        look up English50Cent, they translate 50’s tweets into English.

  • Jeremy

    I don’t know why Gottfried is taking so much heat for THIS particular remark. He was, after all, the first comedian to make jokes about 9/11, relatively soon after it happened. Frankly, his Japan joke looks positively constructive by comparison. He’s known for being insensitive, so why get upset over yet another insensitive joke?

    • Don Alex

      Maybe if Gottfried saw a close member of his family jumping from those towers to his death, or washed away to sea, he might not be able to find the “humor” in such a situation. Hey, here’s a thought: if California gets their version of this disaster and LA ceases to exist as anything but a wasteland of mud and broken dreams, let’s see how many of you smirking American chumps are “laughing” then, as you watch your own house shattered into toothpicks, with everything you own in it, and maybe your wife and kids in pieces too. Laugh it up then, chuckles. I double dare ya.

      • Leek

        Maybe you should calm the heck down, you act like he shot orphans.

      • Cris

        Damn, Don, take some ritalin.

  • doublespeak

    I listen to Comedians for jokes not for social commentary and being sensitive. People need to stop taking jokes so seriously.

    • ejp

      I sooooooooooooooo agree.

    • Lo Downer

      Damn right! IT WAS A JOKE.
      People deal with stress in many ways and humor, bo matter how bad it looks on the surface, IS a way of relieving that stress. Give Gilbert a freekin break.
      Does anyone actually think that he intended his remarks to hurt people.
      Tasteless comments during duress can be relieving……………. if you can see outside the timey boxes some of yopu live in.
      Do you actually think that Gilbert was trying to “rub it in” ???
      If you do, then you really do need to get a life.

  • Jeff

    Gottfried is a gd comedian he makes jokes… so sue him! Wait, you can’t.

  • Shelby

    50 Cent is a rapper and former drug dealer who just raps about stupid stuff and having a bunch of money. He’s not the president or a humanitarian, just a guy who got shot a bunch of times once. If you told me Bono or Oprah who tweeted these things, then yeah, I would be kind of shocked. But it’s not, it’s some guy who wears thousands of dollars of jewelry eery time he wants to take a jaunt around town.

  • tobeyntucker

    If you were to tweet jokes about say.. the holocaust they wouldn’t be laughing..

    • ejp

      Gilbert has made jokes about the holocaust. when ur a comedian nothing should be off limits.

  • Marty

    I agree with him being fired. I enjoy a good joke, but it only takes a half wit to make remarks like that.

  • e39853

    “rapper 50cent you are dumb” those people in japan are the most humble people on earth.

    • Lawrence

      Tell that to the women of china who were made sex slaves by the Japanese Army, or tell that to Countries invaded by Japan, or tell that to United States of America, who dropped the Big Bomb on Japan and imprisoned Japanese American for being Japanese and tell that to the people of Pearl Harbor. Missed my point I bet.

  • Harrison2253

    Yea sure “don’t be too hard on the comedians, its what they do” Well I haven’t heard of any other comedians shooting themselves in both feet, maybe because they know better.

  • Paul

    Twitter is just another way for these self-important morons to spout their crap and like the Kardouchians, their true stupidity will eventually come out.

    • master

      and paul this is yours right?

  • LOL

    Aflac just announced that Andrew Dice Clay is replacing Gilbert.. OH!

    • ejp

      LIKE!!! For that reason and that reason alone I am so signing up for this at work.

  • Tom Denham

    Oh come on. You can’t get a publicist – who makes his living by getting people to know who he is – to go on the record for this puff piece? Puhleeze…I think you made up these quotes.

  • Sassy

    Umm…Leann Rimes’ twitter actions have negatively impacted her career as she bragged daily about her homewrecking ways and how much fun/love she has with him and how kids kids think shes the most beautiful woman in the world (lol).

    Twitter will only affect your career if your career is based off of you being a decent person. Comedians…they push the button for publicity daily. but in this situation, Aflac is BIG in Japan and they dont want to lose their contract so Gottfried was fired.

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