Nixon, Kennedy, Watergate, Bay of Pigs and You.


Requirement:  Use an example of a pop culture situation or event as an analogy and talk about a lesson we can learn from it.

This is a contrast of two different styles of handling an issue and one that many entrepreneurs struggle with in the beginning.  Let’s look at the first.

Richard Nixon.  Watergate, we’ve all heard of it of course but what exactly “IS” the Watergate Scandal?  Here is the VERY simplified version of it.

Men hired by the Nixon re-election team broke into the Democratic headquarters at the Watergate Hotel to get information that they could use in the election.

Got it?  Good… now the second.

John F. Kennedy.  The Bay Of Pigs Incident we’ve all heard of it of course but what exactly “IS” the Bay Of Pigs Incident?  Here is the VERY simplified version of it.

In April of 1961 the United States government sponsored an attempt by Cuban exiles to assault Cuba and overthrow Fidel Castro and the communist government he led.

The exiles were well armed and trained in Central America by the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency).

The attack failed because of the selection of a poor landing site, inability to disable the Cuban Air Force and overestimation of the Cuban people’s willingness to support a strike against Castro.

The diplomatic fallout from the failed Bay of Pigs invasion was considerable and led to an increase of cold war.

OK, those are the basics. Now let’s look at how they each handled their respective situations:


When discovered, Nixon, who did not approve of the break-in, tried to cover it up instead of turning them in.

Nixon also tried to kill the investigation.  This resulted in the Watergate cover-up which was also interfering with an ongoing police investigation, and other illegal moves.


He, within 24 hours gave a speech to the entire country that began like this:

The President of a great democracy such as ours, and the editors of great newspapers such as yours, owe a common obligation to the people: an obligation to present the facts, to present them with candour, and to present them in perspective. It is with that obligation in mind that I have decided in the last 24 hours to discuss briefly at this time the recent events in Cuba.

See the differences?  Had Nixon NOT try to cover up the Watergate Hotel break in, which he didn’t support anyway, then the fallout would have been minimal and he wouldn’t have had to resign.   Had he immediately admitted what happened publically then punished those responsible he would have remained the President.  Nixon actually didn’t do anything wrong.  People that he hired did the wrong and he didn’t approve of their actions.

Kennedy on the other hand came out immediately and said in effect, “I’m sorry, I screwed up.  I made a mistake.  Please forgive me.” then went on to continue his presidency and was applauded by future generations for being a great president.

As entrepreneurs we make mistakes.  We screw up.  We fall down.  The BEST way to handle those types of situations with your clients is to IMMEDIATELY contact them and say, I apologize, this is the mistake that I have made.  Let’s try to fix it together.  However I’ve seen person after person try to cover up, deflect, shift the blame, deny involvement in and everything else aside from being open, upfront and honest about their screw up.  This damages your credibility with your client and creates a potential enemy from a would be ally.

When you screw up, and you will, admit it UP FRONT.  Take responsibility for it UP FRONT without prompting.  Then move forward with confidence.


About Author

Sekou McHenry is the CEO of DIRM Corp, a web design, graphic design and SEO firm. He also makes a mean gumbo. From scratch... Blindfolded.


  1. Hi Sekou, I like how you broke that down. Great points! I do think its hard to sometimes admit your wrongs, but I truly agree that its better to admit them, correct them as soon as possible, and move on with life. The worse thing is to try to put a “bandaid” on something that doesn’t get fixed. As entrepreneurs, this can be one of the hardest challenges we face.

  2. Great analogy, this is especially important in the digital world we live in. Customers often don’t bring complaints to you they take them to the web. As a business owner if it isn’t handled properly it can be detrimental.

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