Newsom Joins Rehab Roundup


Feb. 6, 2007 — -- San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced Monday that he would seek alcohol counseling and stop drinking -- this just days after he admitted having a sexual affair with his appointments secretary, who is also the wife of his campaign manager.

First contrition, and then rehab. Political damage-control experts say it's a necessary step to salvage his future.

"This isn't new. This has been going on since the days of Errol Flynn. It's an attempt to move from villain to victim," said Richard Levick, of Levick Strategic Communications, a Washington crisis-management firm.

Newsom isn't the first politician to enter rehab after a scandal. Former Florida Rep. Mark Foley resigned in September after a series of salacious e-mail exchanges between himself and several unidentified teenage boys was reported by ABC News.

"I strongly believe I am an alcoholic and have accepted the need for immediate treatment for alcoholism and other behavioral problems," Foley said in a statement issued by his attorney.

In May, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., sought help at the Mayo Clinic for an addiction to prescription pain medication. This came shortly after he crashed his car into a barricade on Capitol Hill.

Politicians aren't the only ones who run to rehab in times of crisis. Celebrities do it, too.

Most recently, Isaiah Washington, the star of ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," went to rehab for anger management. This after he called co-star T.R. Knight a "faggot" during an argument with another cast member. Washington, who plays Dr. Preston Burke on the hit series, issued a written apology for "using a word that is unacceptable in any context or circumstance." He will continue to receive outpatient counseling.

Donald Trump ordered Kentucky beauty Tara Conner to go to rehab to keep her Miss USA crown. Trump almost fired her after reports of cocaine use and binge drinking. The 21-year-old spoke openly to reporters about the difficulty of overcoming addiction.

"If I were to say I never have cravings, I would be lying," she said. "I'll be in situations where I would have initially had a drink, but I feel better and I take more pride in not doing it now."

Mel Gibson also pledged to enter a recovery program after he unleashed a tirade of anti-Semitic insults during a drunken-driving arrest.

And British model Kate Moss entered a drug rehab program after her cocaine use was caught and exposed on video. Her career barely skipped a beat.

But experts caution what might work for a celebrity might not work for others in the public eye. Strategies that work for actors and politicians might spell disaster for high-profile CEOs.

Crisis management experts emphasize that the first 24 hours of a crisis are critical. And that's why entering rehab often follows so quickly on the heels of an apology or statement of responsibility.

"You want to move from being a Frankenstein monster to being more sympathetic, more human -- and as quickly as possible," said Levick.

So, how does all this strategy play into an addict's actual recovery? Dr. Thomas Irwin, program director at the McLean Center at Fernside, a substance abuse treatment center, said it's not a recipe for success.

"Individuals need to ask themselves, what is the motivation for treatment? Is it to work on the problem or avoid a crisis? Part of treatment is to come to terms with what you've done and take responsibility for it."

Only time will tell whether or not the apology, rehab and recovery cycle will work for Newsom.

ABC reporter Monica Nista contributed to this report.

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