The 5 biggest PR disasters of the past year

Paula Deen's apology tour, as bad as it was, is just the most recent one

Topics: Paula Deen, abercrombie, pr disasters, Lance Armstrong, kitchenaid, NRA, Hurricane Sandy,

The Paula Deen scandal has been grabbing headlines for two straight weeks — first because of revelations that America’s Southern sweetheart had used the n-word and done other racially insensitive things — but then because it took Deen days to do what she should have done immediately: apologize. Deen’s may be the worst in a while, but here are 5 other major PR disasters from the past year:

1. KitchenAid’s Twitter incident

KitchenAid insulted Obama’s dead grandmother during the presidential debates in October, tweeting “Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! ‘She died 3 days b4 he became president’ #nbcpolitics.” To its credit, the company stemmed the bleeding by deleting the tweet and immediately issuing an apology on Twitter and later to news outlets.

2. Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah

After several missed opportunities to admit that he took performance enhancing drugs, a USDA investigation charged seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong with doping. Only then did Armstrong try to come clean in a tell-all interview with Oprah — but by then it was too little, too late.

3. The NRA’s offensive tweet on the day of the Aurora, Colo. shooting

On July 20, the same day that James Holmes opened fire at a crowd in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., the NRA tweeted: “Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday! Weekend plans?”

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The tweet was taken down hours later, and a spokesman issued the following statement: “A single individual, unaware of events in Colorado, tweeted a comment that is being completely taken out of context.” The NRA didn’t gain many points in sensitivity, however, when executive vice president Wayne LaPierre seemingly blamed every industry for gun violence but his own after Sandy Hook.

4. Stores that exploited Hurricane Sandy

Companies like Urban Outfitters, Gap and American Apparel joked about the “Frankenstorm,” offering sales to those stuck indoors during the hurricane, which displaced millions of Americans along the East Coast.

5. Abercrombie & Fitch’s clothes for cool kids

Hip CEO Mike Jeffries only makes clothes for hip kids.”He doesn’t want larger people shopping in his store, he wants thin and beautiful people,” Robin Lewis, author of “The New Rules of Retail,” told Business Insider. Jeffries has remained unnervingly unwavering on this point, showing no sign of apologizing or changing the store’s policies. This prompted one man to take matters into his own hands and clothe the homeless with A&F apparel.

Prachi Gupta
Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at pgupta@salon.com.

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