The news of comedy and television icon Bill Cosby’s sexual assault allegations came as a shock to the public. It was hard to imagine that a celebrity who had made a name for himself making audiences laugh and providing kid-friendly entertainment could be involved in such a disturbing scandal. Now, similar news has shaken the public once again.

 

Actor Stephen Collins — best known for his former role as father and pastor, Eric Camden, on the wholesome WB drama, “7th Heaven” — has come forward to confess to allegations of child molestation.

 

The allegations arose after TMZ got hold of a 2012 recording in which Collins confesses to his estranged wife, Faye Grant, during a therapy session that he had previously exposed himself to three young girls. In the recording, he claims to have had physical contact with only one of his three victims and on only a single occasion.

 

 

Two months after the recording was initially leaked, Collins has now come forward to open up about the child molestation allegations himself and lend his own voice to the conversation on the scandal.

 

In an interview with People, Collins admits to the incredibly inappropriate nature of his actions and expresses deep remorse for the entire situation. He makes no efforts to deny the validity of the claims made against him (although, it’s difficult to imagine how he would given his clear confession on tape) and offers up his indirect apologies to the women who were affected by his actions.

 

Collins is best known for his role in the WB series 7th Heaven, where he played a pastor and patriarch of the Camden family (nydailynews.com)

Collins is best known for his role in the WB series 7th Heaven, where he played a pastor and patriarch of the Camden family (nydailynews.com)

What is most attention-grabbing about Collins’ interview with People, however, is not his confession or his commentary on his actions. Rather, it is the clear way in which wording and language use are pivotal in generating a particular emotional response in readers. This emotional response is engineered to preserve as much of Collins’ public image as possible by subtly influencing the way readers think about the scandal.

 

In his confession to People, Collins states, “I’ve decided to address these issues publicly because two months ago, various news organizations published a recording made by my then-wife, Faye Grant, during a confidential marriage therapy session in January, 2012. This session was recorded without the therapist’s or my knowledge or consent.”

 

Here is a man confessing to child molestation outright, affirming most of the claims which have been made against him in the media. Yet, by throwing details about his lack of knowledge of the recording and questions of confidentiality into the mix, Collins begins adding new dimensions to the scandal which delicately paint him as a victim who has had his privacy unknowingly violated.

 

Collins’ knowledge of the recording or lack thereof is information which arguably has nothing to do with a confession or an apology, which are two of the primary purposes for which he ultimately came forward in the first place. However, by incorporating this point into his confession without shifting the conversation to make it the focus of his interview, Collins manages to partially reshape the way this scandal impacts his public image. Furthermore, he does so without detracting from his admittance of wrongdoing and feelings of remorse.

 

It’s a move which serves as a clear example of the power of language, and of how smart PR must recognize language use as one of the most essential tools in influencing audiences.

 

How do you think Collins’ interview with People impacts the way the public is perceiving the actor in light of his child molestation scandal? Share your thoughts below or tweet me @tamarahoumi