TODAY   |  March 13, 2013

Inspiration behind ‘Scandal’ talks damage control

When it comes to crisis management, Judy Smith is known as one of the nation’s top “fixers,” having represented everyone from Monica Lewinsky to Jesse Jackson, Jr. She talks about her career, which inspired the popular TV show “Scandal.”

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> comes to crisis management judy smith is known as one of the top fixers. over 25 years she's represented everyone from monica lewinsky in a presidential scandal to wesley snipes in a tax evasion case to jesse jackson , jr., who resigned after pleading guilty to misuse of campaign finances. her career inspired "scandal" starring kerry washington . judy , thank you for being here.

>> thanks for being here.

>> enron, iran-contra, chandra levy investigation. you are known in washington as the fixer. what does that mean? what do you do?

>> well, except for no sleep, of course. i'm a crisis manager. what i really try to do when people have a crisis or a problem, help them navigate it. it could be big or small. really help them deal with the crisis is and protect their brand and their reputation in the process.

>> is it a job that involves a lot of late night phone calls?

>> it does. it's a job where if you want to do it, you can't go into it thinking it's a 9:00 to 5:00 job. it's not.

>> do you get a call and say, this problem is too big? i can't deal with it?

>> i don't. there are some cases i don't take because i don't want to, not because the problem is too big.

>> let's talk b about what people do when faced with a crisis. what should someone do?

>> first thing to do is admit that there is a crisis or a problem. a lot of times they don't because it's difficult. one of the biggest mistakes is people tend to lie about it and deny. it makes it bigger. in washington we say the cover-up is worse than the crime. that's usually accurate.

>> probably the best thing to do is call judy smith first.

>> yes. put that out there.

>> there is an entire television series loosely based on you. kerry washington plays you on "scandal." do you watch?

>> i do. it's a weird scene one time. i was coming home . watched the show and i sat down and said, oh, i'm so tired. let me have some wine and popcorn. there she was having a glass of wine and popcorn at the same time.

>> she nailed it?

>> yes, yes.

>> is there a little bit of a dark art to what you do? do you find yourself in seedy situations?

>> i would say in difficult situations sometimes. you know, crisis, you don't want to find yourself in one, but you can't predict them.

>> let's talk about things happening now. then some viewers have dilemmas for you. one in the news, justin bieber has had a squeaky clean image over his career. the last couple of weeks haven't been that kind. does the information age change the way people handle scandal? they can react, say things instantly on twitter, post things of themselves that are probably ill advised in hindsight.

>> yes.

>> does it make it more difficult?

>> it makes my job so much more difficult. it's immediate. you're right. they can go on twitter and send their response out. then say, oh, my god, why did i do it? with justin, we shouldn't take it seriously. he needs to think about does he want to have a career like the rolling stones or be a teen idol ? his problem is no different from any young person . he's growing. those are bumps along the road.

>> he's just growing with the world watching.

>> exactly right. that's a can i have cult thing. very difficult.

>> let's get to viewer questions. these aren't iran-contra.

>> it's all relative.

>> our first e question deals with social media snafus. you say the questions come up all the time. say you find out from a neighbor that your teen posted something inappropriate on a social media site. how do you fix it? what do you do? it speaks to the problem of facebook, twitter, teens posting things that maybe mom and dad don't want out there.

>> first the teen has to apologize. assume it is an inappropriate picture. we have seen it a lot lately. i think the teen needs to do that. the second thing the parent wants to think about is there may be legal ramifications. we need to make sure we are prepared for that. third thing i would do, i'm a parent of two kids, that teen's butt needs to be kicked. you know --

>> sometimes it just comes back to that.

>> it does. you need to understand the consequences for your actions. that's important.

>> good advice. the next comes from andy in indianapolis. she writes my husband works full-time. i'm a stay at home mom . my husband has it in his head that i should be responsible for everything involving our kids. i start going to college this fall and i know i have to rely on his help more. is this going to fall on me or is there a way to convince him to be more helpful with his kids?

>> that's a great question. first of all, i will say we can't communicate by mental telepathy. we have to be clear about what we want our spouse to do. she should do it. if we want him to pick up the kid. do you know what i mean ? if we want the husband to make dinner twice a week. we have to be very forceful in how we communicate. a lot of times, too, as women we try to take on a lot and think we have to do all of it. we can't and we shouldn't. be clear about what you want.

>> all right. a little free advice from judy smith who handled the big problems of the last 25 years. so nice to meet you.