Pattie Dunn’s Weirdly Unsatisfying Response To Critics

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The Wall Street Journal has given over the lead spot on its editorial page today to Pattie Dunn. Fair enough, since it has run editorials by Dunn critics. And it’s a bit daring of Dunn to go ahead and publish after she’s been indicted on felony counts. In fact, we were so impressed by her unwillingness to take the usual “radio silence” while criminal charges are pending tact, that we found ourselves actually rooting for her while we read the piece.
“Come on, Pattie! You can do it! Convince us that you didn’t do anything wrong here,” we said to our newspaper, causing folks on the subway to give us a little extra room.
But she couldn’t do it. Here’s the gist of her argument: “I asked the right questions of the right people at the right times.” In other words, it’s all somebody else’s fault. She did everything right. This is frustrating because clearly something went badly wrong with the investigation, and no one seems willing to take responsibility.
We won’t go into all the details right now about what seems wrong with her account. But we’ll mention a couple. Here’s one that grabbed us: even though Dunn was actually at the congressional hearings she doesn’t seem to get that people are tired of the circular blame passing that so frustrated the lawmakers. She quotes a “prominent outside attorney” as saying “the process was well done and within legal limits.” But if she means Larry Sonsini, he’s already on record as saying he was relying on Hewlett-Packard’s inside lawyers to make this judgment. So bringing him into it here just confuses matters.
Then there is this whopper: “As a result of the extraordinary negative publicity from these episodes, the board as me to step down as chairman and director.”
There are at least three things wrong with this. First, by calling the press attention to the pretexting scandal “extraordinary negative publicity” she seems to imply that it was unduly negative or that undue attention was paid to the “episodes.” So she still doesn’t get that this was a big deal.
Second, she says the board asked her to step down. Why didn’t she take the initiative when it became clear to everyone else in the world that it was going to be impossible for her to remain chairman?
Third, she says the board asked her to step down because of the publicity from the episodes, rather than the pretexting episodes themselves. This may even be true but it’s not helpful to Hewlett-Packard. It shows that they might still believe that it was all just bad press that was the problem and not the pretexting, privacy invading investigation itself. Or, as Dunn put it in another press account, it was a “disinformation” campaign that toppled her rather than the excesses of the leak investigation she set in motion.
The H-P Investigation [Wall Street Journal]

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