- Amber Heard sat down with the “Today” show’s Savannah Guthrie for her first interview after the Johnny Depp defamation trial.
- Crisis management experts told Insider the interview failed to help rehabilitate Heard’s image.
- They said it would have been better for her to wait for the dust to settle or skip the whole thing.
When asked about Johnny Depp’s attorney’s comment that Amber Heard gave “the performance of a lifetime” when testingifying about her ex-husband abusing her, Heard praised Depp’s skills as an actor.
“Says the lawyer for the man who convinced the world he had scissors for fingers,” Heard said with disdain in an interview with “Today” co-anchor Savannah Guthrie. “I’m the performer?”
Watching the interview from home, Danny Deraney, a Los Angeles-based crisis communications expert, cringed. How did pointing out that Depp was an actor helping make Heard’s point?
“He’s also not Captain Jack Sparrow. He’s also not a cop who’s hanging out in a high school arresting kids for drugs or whatever,” Deraney said. “The moment she said that it was like, ‘Oh my god, how much more time is left in this interview?'”
The entire interview will fill an hour-long special, which NBC News plans to air in full on “Dateline” Friday night. As the first clips started airing this week on NBC’s “Today” show, Insider spokes to crisis management experts who weighed in about Heard’s interview.
The experts largely agreed: the interview had been a failure and that it may have been a mistake to do it at all.
Heard may need to double down, but lacks credibility, experts say
Juda Engelmayer, president of HeraldPR, said one of the biggest issues with Heard’s interview was her failure to recognize that she didn’t come across as credible during the trial.
Of the three claims made in her counterclaim against Depp, jurors gave her just one win, affirming Depp defamed her through his lawyer Adam Waldman. But while that victory came with $2 million in compensatory damages, it gave $0 in punitive damages, indicating jurors didn’t necessarily believe Depp was to blame.
In contrast, Depp ran the table with his three claims against Heard, winning both punitive and compensatory damages for all counts.
Instead of taking the blame here, she pinned the loss on Depp being a more famous figure, the strength of his legal team, and the patriarchy.
“I didn’t hear her taking any responsibility for the lapses in her memory, the testimony that sometimes contradicts itself, the fact that family who ‘love’ each other are recording each other to begin with. It’s all a little sketchy and she addressed none of that,” Engelmayer said.
Not explaining these issues likely turned the public even more against her, according to Engelmayer.
“If you don’t take responsibility at any point, people will call you out on that,” Engelmayer said.
Heard is fully in her rights to hold her ground, as Eric Dezenhall, CEO of Dezenhall Resources, a DC-based crisis management firm, pointed out. Even if the public may have reacted better to a reflective position, “it clearly doesn’t seem to be something she believes,” Dezenhall said.
“Just because the general public may want you to split the difference. It doesn’t mean that you should,” Dezenhall told Insider.
Since Heard plans to appeal the verdict, according to her attorney Elaine Bredehoft, she’ll have to continue pushing the same narrative she had on the stand. That means she can’t afford to cede any ground, Dezenhall said.
“There is a conflict between a legal case and a PR media case. In a legal case, if you admit a fault on a TV show, that is admissible in court. What may be a really bad media strategy, may be a good legal strategy ,” Dezenhall said.
“I’ve been doing this for almost 40 years and everybody wants my clients to fall on their sword and say, ‘I’m awful, I really did all this stuff,'” Dezenhall continued. “Well, what if your position in court is that you didn’t do it?”
The interview was too soon
The experts who Insider interviewed said it may have been a mistake for Heard to submit to interviews so soon after the June 1 verdict.
“I always tell people that you don’t need to rush into doing anything. You don’t need to rush into doing press,” Derany told Insider.
Deraney, who has represented several MeToo accusers, said it’s possible Heard went against the advice of her public relations team in agreeing to the talk with Guthrie. He said he didn’t think Heard “came off well” in the interview and that he would have been “disappointed” if Heard was his client.
“It’s almost like she went rogue …I would’ve probably not allowed my client or at least I would’ve definitely lobbied against her doing this,” he said.
A representative for Heard at Shane Communications, the firm that had advised the actress during the trial, declined to comment.
Evan Nierman, CEO of Red Banyan PR, told Insider he agreed the interview may have been a mistake.
“It was probably something she felt like she had to do because she lost so decisively in court that this became a way for her to once again push her side of the story,” Nierman said. “But I don’t think anyone’s really buying it and I think it’s unlikely to change a lot of minds.”
Nierman said it’s unlikely Heard can do anything at this point to recover her reputation and career because her “brand is now forever to the Depp/Heard trial.”
“I think her career was going to be damaged before the trial got underway and the longer it went on and the verdict that was reached basically put a nail in the coffin of her acting career,” Nierman said.
He called it a “cautionary tale” for those who try to connect themselves to big social movements like MeToo.
“Before you wrap yourself in the flag of MeToo or any other social movement, you better have the facts on your side or you’re going to suffer more reputational damage than if you’d never said anything in the first place,” Nierman said .
“You know the saying that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones? I think it’s clear she lived in a glass house and by writing an op-ed and putting herself out there as a victim before the world, she was choosing to throw the first stone and I think it boomeranged back on her,” Nierman added.
The interview wasn’t a complete miss for Heard. Engelmayer said Heard did a good job at not coming across as angry or bitter.
“Some actors in the past, when they’ve been through tough things, they’ve been mean and angry and she didn’t. At the very least, her camera image is fine,” Engelmayer said.
Engelmayer was also more positive about Heard’s career prospects going forward, especially from those supportive of the MeToo movement in Hollywood.
“There are people out there who want to be seen to support women and will give her roles, but I don’t think it will be anything major, it will be minor ones and first, and then if the box office commands it, she ‘I’ll get more,’ he said.
“Her abilities and skill will take it from there — if they can,” he added.