“Which office do I go to get my reputation back?”
It was a damning question, put to the media in 1987 by Raymond Donovan, the former Secretary of Labor who was indicted on corruption charges for his work with a construction company accused of having mob ties. The media had a field day with Donovan. After all, it wasn’t every day you could paint a Reagan cabinet member as a mafia stooge.
Trouble was, the charges against Donovan didn’t hold up. Donovan’s attorneys never even put up a defense. They rested their case without calling a single witness, saying the prosecution failed to prove Donovan did anything wrong. The jury agreed, and Donovan walked out a free man.
Donovan was free, but tainted—leading to his now-famous comment.
Donovan was innocent, but not everyone seeking to repair their reputation is. In the digital age, people don’t often screw up in silence. Day after day, there are headlines about executives losing their jobs due to workplace misconduct. What’s more, social media magnifies people’s misdeeds, creating a digital footprint that can alert people to incidents years in the past.