A video of Sara Brady, the crisis management expert who represented Broward County Public Schools in the aftermath of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, has gone viral. In it, Brady takes vitriolic aim at both the families of Parkland victims and the media.
Hunter Pollack, 21, brother of 18-year-old Meadow Pollack, who was killed in the mass shooting on February 14, 2018 that left 17 people dead, posted a link to the video Monday on Twitter.
The 90 minute video, which was taken down from a now-deleted Vimeo account hosting videos of Sara Brady's work, was shot in July 2018 at the 18th Annual Public Relations Executives Meeting for the Council of the Great City Schools. Brady's speech was about crisis management for schools and focused on how to preserve the school's reputation by using various tactics to influence public opinion.
During her presentation, Brady admonishes community members who failed to support the Promise (Preventing Recidivism Through Opportunities, Mentoring, Interventions, Supports & Education) program, an initiative aimed at reducing recidivism among at-risk youth.
For several months following the school shooting, Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie assured the public that shooter Nikolas Cruz had not been involved in any way with the Promise intervention program. But in May, Runcie was forced to backtrack on those claims after reporting by WLRN confirmed that Cruz had been assigned to the program as a middle school student in 2013. Runcie blamed his inaccurate statements on scattered district record-keeping.
“This Promise program has nothing to do with this [Parkland] tragedy; it’s a red herring,” Brady says in defense of the program.
“Sure enough, all the crazies came out,” she continues, apparently referring to Pollack and others who spoke out against the program's effectiveness in the aftermath of the massacre. “This district knows who the crazies are and who the opposition is.”
Brady, who worked for Broward County Public Schools from the spring of 2018 until the end of August 2018, went on to say that Superintendent Robert Runcie agreed with her, and that the opinions of the families of the murdered victims do not matter.
“I talked to Mr. Runcie and he said, ‘It’s out there and we’re getting a lot of traction with it, some negative,’” Brady says. “And I said, ‘But it’s the crazies, the people you don’t really care about,’ and he said, ‘Right.’ And I said, ‘So let’s just let it go. Don’t respond. Leave it alone.’”
But Pollack believes that the Promise program failed the community and that his sister and others paid the ultimate price.
“He was able to bring bullets to school, he was able to threaten kids at school, fight at school,” Pollack says of the Parkland shooter. “He told his teacher that he was a bad kid who wanted to kill in eighth grade. All these things that he did, and he never got thrown out. That’s why we don’t like Promise. It just sets a horrible culture in the Broward County public school district.”
In the video, Brady also says that it is important for crisis management specialists to avoid getting wrapped up in sympathy for the victim’s families. In spite of being recorded on multiple videos, Brady looks around the room and comments that she is in a “safe zone” where no one will talk about or tweet what she is about to say.
“The survivors and the victims’ families, they will say anything because they are angry, and they want to blame, and they’re not always correct and true in what they say,” she goes on to say. “And so, people that are still alive and working and trying to live their lives get blamed for things that they are not responsible for and they are not guilty of. But if your sympathies lie with the parents, and you make decisions based on ‘Well, they said it, so we got to say that,’ that’s what I’m talking about. You have to make business decisions and you have to shut out their emotions.”
For Pollack and much of the community (of which the Orlando-based Brady is not a part), the mercilessness of the statement is incomprehensible.
“It’s like a spit in the face, because she references the superintendent and says that we’re the opposition and we’re the crazies and that the superintendent agrees with her,” Pollack says. “We lost family members under their leadership with their policy.”
While videotaped evidence seems to clearly contradict her claim, Brady tweeted that her comments were aimed at the media, not the families of Parkland victims.
Brady did not mince words in her repeated attacks on the media. She called herself a “recovering journalist” and proceeded to eviscerate mainstream media in a series of rants, calling them sloppy, reckless, and attention-seeking. She then mocks journalists by fake-crying while showing a picture of a baby.
“They’re just trying to be relevant,” Brady says of journalists. “Make no mistake, these reporters, particularly in print... are looking to validate themselves... They’re looking for those press awards and they’re looking for Pulitzers... No doubt about it.”
Brady says that one of the biggest problems with journalists is that they blow things out of proportion, and she cites a bizarre example. “I don’t mean to sound unempathetic, but, you know, if you have a kid that brings a machete to school one day, that’s not a crisis,” Brady says. “That’s kind of the norm. Those things happen.”
Brady says that for crisis experts, like herself, it is good that the public no longer pays attention to newspapers or network news. She shows a photo of boxing gloves and begins a venomous tirade, berating Sun Sentinel education reporter Scott Travis. “He is just a jerk. He’s sloppy, he’s reckless, he’s mean, and he smells bad,” she says, making faces and cackling for about 15 seconds.
Pollack is mortified. “This is a grown, professional woman,” Pollack says. “Ten-year-olds do that.”
In a sentiment shared by many in the community, Pollack says that Brady could not be more wrong about Travis. “Scott Travis has done a phenomenal job in exposing the corruption behind Broward schools,” Pollack says. “He’s transparent with our families, he shares information when he can, and all 17 families, I know for a fact, are thankful for the work that Scott Travis does.”
Pollack's defense of local media does not extend to Brady or Runcie. “They have empathy in front of the cameras, but not one time since February has the superintendent reached out to my family,” Pollack says. “Now I know that their crisis manager is a fraud herself. Well, not a fraud, but disrespectful. And it’s just so saddening."
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Brady did not respond to a request for an interview. Runcie declined an interview request but sent New Times the following email:
Statements made by a former crisis communications consultant Sara Brady are inappropriate, hurtful and in no way represents the views and values of the leadership and School Board of Broward County.
Her comments about a reporter were unprofessional and unacceptable.
Her comments about ‘crazies’ were in no way referring to Parkland families - families who have suffered and continue to suffer immensely from this tragedy.
My family and I have received nasty, racist and hateful messages, phone calls and threats concerning this event and particularly around the misunderstood Promise program. My daughters have received jarring and upsetting hate mail and threats at work and school. Her comments were a reaction to this situation.
This continues to be a tense, stressful and contentious environment where misinformation and false perceptions can move very quickly, especially on social media.
But for Pollack, there is no love lost on either Runcie or Brady. “She did a horrible job anyways, because everyone hates how the school board has been since the shooting,” Pollack says.
Pollack says that competent, intelligent people need to be at the helm in Broward County and plans to major in criminal justice at Florida State University this spring. “I want to dedicate my life to public service and helping others, whether that be law enforcement, federal agent or somewhere in politics,” he says.