It was recently announced that two-time oscar winner Hilary Swank was dropped by the PR firm representing her, 42West, for attending a party that was for the Chechen President, Ramzan Kaydrov.
The New York Times does justice at describing Kaydrove as a leader who has succeeded in making Chechyna (which is located in Russia) to be “one of the more stable republics in the restive North Caucasus region. But only at the expense of widespread human rights violations, including abductions, torture and assassinations, according to international critics.”
You can see why this would be a problem if Swank was partying it up with this guy. Not to mention that she reportedly received a heft paycheck for attending the event.
42West and Swank apparently parted ways due to disagreeing on how to deal with the situation at hand… Hmm, wouldn’t a PR firm know best?
To make this PR-fiasco better, Swank also spoke at the event. She was caught saying, “Really, truly, for me this was a great honor to learn more about you and your country and what you’re building. Happy birthday, Mr. President.” However, Swank did try to redeem herself by vowing to donate the money she made off the event to a charitable organization.
And then, to add insult to injury, Swank decided that the way to make the debacle right again was by firing those responsible for it, of course. She sacked her long-time friend and manager of eight years, Jason Weinberg, and is threatening the jobs of three others of her representatives from the Creative Artists Agency, which is reported to be “Hollywood’s most powerful talent agency,” who are the people who apparently booked the event and did not foresee the PR repercussions.
It was also reported by the Washington Post that Swank received a letter from the Human Rights Foundation explaining Kaydrov’s track record and to express their concerns.
Since all of this has unfolded, Swank released an explanation and a statement saying:
“On Wednesday, October 5th, Hilary Swank attended the opening of a new residential and commercial complex in Grozny City, including the largest sports complex in southern Russia. There were various guests from all over the world in attendance at that event, including Chechnya’s president. Ms. Swank decided to attend the opening because the construction project was described to her as a symbol of hope for the people of Chechnya, a region that had been devastated by war.
Specifically, she was advised that the project was instrumental in the creation of jobs and other opportunities for the people of Chechnya. Ms. Swank very much wanted to attend to be a proponent of those things and, most importantly, she wanted be an advocate for peace in Chechnya. When she arrived at the event, its organizers requested that she wish the President a happy birthday, which happened to coincide with the opening. Not wanting to be rude, she obliged. She was unaware, at the time, of the allegations against President Kadyrov that have been made by various human rights groups. She had never met Kadyrov before that evening, and has no personal or professional ties to him.
Ms. Swank commented, ‘I deeply regret attending this event, which has thrown into question my long and deeply-held commitment to the protection of human rights. I would never intentionally do anything that raised doubts about such commitment. I will continue to donate my time and my financial resources not only to the charities with which I am currently affiliated, but also those dedicated to the preservation of human rights. If I had a full understanding of what this event was apparently intended to be, I would never have gone.’”
So, who’s to blame? The reps that booked the event? Swank for not taking the time to Google the man’s birthday she was celebrating?
Did her PR firm do the right thing for dropping her? Should more PR firms follow in their footsteps when it comes to controversial clients decisions?
Let’s discuss 🙂