Martha Stewart Protests Innocence in PR Campaign

09 June 2003

Fallen US style goddess Martha Stewart is waging a public relations battle to protest her innocence of fraud charges.

The multimillionaire, who built her fortunes on her reputation as the embodiment of all-American wholesomeness, is embroiled in a distinctly unwholesome insider trading scandal. Last week, federal prosecutors charged her with nine counts of fraud, perjury and obstruction of justice.

Her response has been to launch a website dedicated to her innocence and to take out a full-page newspaper ad in USA Today, America’s top-selling title. “I want you to know I am innocent and I will fight to clear my name,” she wrote on the site.

Such a ready and well-organised response suggests she saw the charges coming. Indeed, an unnamed source claims she spoke to PR shop Citigate Sard Verbinnen, a specialist in handling corporate crises, nearly eight months ago.

The charges surround her sale of nearly four thousand shares in biotech firm ImClone just a day before their value slumped on news that experimental cancer drug Erbitrux would be rejected by regulators. Prosecutors believe she was tipped off; Stewart claims the sale was part of a pre-arranged plan.

It will come as little comfort to Stewart that her indictment coincided with news that Erbitux will be resubmitted to federal authorities after encouraging clinical trials.

Data sourced from: Times Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff