People in the media spotlight, let alone those in positions of responsibility, have to be more aware than ever of the impact their actions and behaviour will have – and the potentially ruinous effects of negative stories. And, in a holiday photo call this week, one particular individual was certainly not thinking ahead.
On a hunting trip in Africa, King Juan Carlos of Spain was snapped posing next to a dead elephant. While the Royals have not confirmed it, the fact that he is holding a gun in the images rather suggests that he killed it. News of the trip may have escaped press attention had it not been for the King slipping and breaking his hip on his itinerary, necessitating an emergency flight home on a private jet. It didn’t take long for the global media machine to jump on the story, and for the outrage to begin.
The King’s country is in the depth of a financial crisis – with national borrowing costs at eye-watering rates, unemployment currently at 23% and severe spending cutbacks denting the infrastructure. Plus, there is one extremely awkward side issue to the story: the King is honorary president of the Spanish arm of the WWF, and should probably think twice about shooting elephants for kicks. The message – King of a beleaguered nation takes opulent step of flying by private jet to Botswana to go on safari – has enraged his people.
On Wednesday, King Carlos issued an apology, saying: “I’m very sorry, I made a mistake. It won’t happen again.” But by then, a petition calling for his resignation had already collected 85,000 signatures. Judging from the ongoing anger at his actions, it’s indeed possible that he won’t get the chance to do it again – at least not as King of Spain.