College Admissions Scandal: 10 Ways to Know How Bad the Crisis Is

The public is buzzing about Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin being indicted in a college-admissions bribery scandal this week. But just how badly is this going to impact their lives, both personal and professional? Howard Bragman, a longtime PR strategist and crisis manager, tells Variety that there are objective ways to predict just how serious a scandal is. Here are the 10 points he looks at:
  1. How egregious is the act? Racism is the worst; ask Michael Richards and Paula Deen. In Felicity and Lori’s case, there is a lot of anger, but most parents understand that as parents, the pair wanted what was best for their kids, even if it was wrong and misguided.
  2. How visible is the scandal? It’s making worldwide headlines, and although many others were involved, Lori and Felicity have become the poster ladies for this one. There’s a certain Hollywood blowback here. This is not an entertainment industry scandal, it’s a rich people scandal.
  3. How much blowback is there on social media? The answer in this case is LOTS. People on the Hallmark Channel website are asking the network to fire Loughlin. This is huge on social media and will continue to be for a long time as the case unfolds.
  4. How humiliating is it? Oprah once said the worst thing people can go through is public humiliation. These actors and their families are going through it in the worst way. It has to be taking a huge emotional toll.
  5. What is the legal risk? In this case, the risk is huge. Most legal experts opine that first-time offenders typically do not go to jail for a non-violent crime. But the prosecutor pulled no punches at his press conference; the FBI arrested Felicity with guns a-blazing; and jail remains a possibility until the actual sentencing.
  6. How much is this going to cost? The answer is lots, easily seven figures. They are going to need a team of high-priced lawyers, investigators and legal experts, possibly a crisis manager, and the cost in lost work and sponsorships is real and potentially in the millions of dollars.
  7. What is the career risk? In the long-term, both careers will come back after enough pain, punishment and time. Lori’s “Aunt Becky” image will actually be harder to regain whereas Felicity has done more cutting-edge projects, which will serve her well moving forward.
  8. How long will this go on? Bad news here. This is going to go on for literally years. Criminal cases are notoriously slow and there are so many people and institutions involved, the bad news will seep out like a volcano that won’t stop seeping lava.
  9. How much collateral damage is there? Plenty. Their families, particularly their children, are already being brought into this, as evidenced by the hate on social media. And it’s entirely possible they will be kicked out by the universities they attend.
  10. How much ‘brand damage’ is there? Again, this cuts harder against Loughlin. Her husband and daughter both have lucrative relationships with corporate America. The whole family is toxic for the foreseeable future.