Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me

I was truly surprised to read Katie Delahaye Paine’s defense of Raytheon CEO Bill Swanson’s admitted plagiarism in a letter to the editor in the current PR Week. In her letter, Paine says Swanson, who admitted fault for lifting entire sections of writings from other authors and passing it along as his own, shouldn’t be lumped alongside truly "reprehensible" CEO’s like Ken Lay and Dennis Kozlowski.

Paine, who admits Raytheon is a client, said removing Swanson would only hurt the company’s performance and achieve nothing else. I couldn’t disagree more vehemently.

If public relations is ever to "gain a seat at the table," we need to draw a line in the sand and stand up to liars, cheats and frauds like Swanson. If the guy ripped off countless authors and re-packaged their writing as his own, he’s guilty of cheating. My question is: what other lines may he have crossed? Has he fudged some numbers, cut some deals with nefarious characters, done a little price fixing? I’m not suggesting he has, but if he lied once he could very well lie again. Fool me once…

I, for one, think the Board and shareholders should be crying for Swanson’s removal. So what if he’s improved the bottom line in recent years? How much long-term damage has he done to Raytheon’s reputation? Ms. Paine says Swanson didn’t "lie to employees or defraud shareholders." Hello! By plagiarizing others’ work, he did lie to employees (who thought the CEO’s management tome contained his personal thoughts) and he did defraud shareholders (for the very same reason). Would you want to work for a liar? Would you buy stock in a company run by a thief? I wouldn’t.

Let’s start acting like the ethical and moral compasses we purport to be and stop making excuses for bogus chief executive officers. The sooner we do, the sooner PR will be taken more seriously in the boardrooms of Corporate America.

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