Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Monday, May 31, 1999

Poll numbers really
crunch ex-trustees

CONSIDERING the fact that the ousted Bishop Estate trustees had elevated arrogance to levels that would make a professional wrestler seem humble, it is not surprising that a recent poll showed the trustee's "favorable" ratings in the single digits.

Low single digits. Only one-to-three percent of those questioned in the Star Bulletin/ News 8 poll gave a "favorable" rating to four of the five trustees. Oswald Stender, the "good guy trustee" who nevertheless accepted a $1 million salary last year, did a little better with 16 percent, which couldn't get you elected dog catcher in a one-dog town.

These are stunning numbers. Richard Nixon never got approval ratings this low. I suspect Attila the Hun would have polled higher.

But the most amazing thing is that the trustees had an entire public relations staff at their command. These in-house flaks had access to all the best consultants, poll-takers and media spinmeisters in the world.

All that PR power should have been able to make anyone look good. Or at least undetestable. But a 1 percent favorable rating for Dickie Wong and Henry Peters? Are you kidding? You'd think you'd have strangle a puppy in public to create that kind of distrust. These are just political king pins who may have monkeyed around with some money. They didn't drag someone behind a truck or burn Mother Teresa in effigy on the Kawaiahao Plaza lawn. I mean, what do you have to do to get a LOWER approval rating than 1 percent? Nuke a convent full of nuns?

And it gets worse. Not only did the trustees' favorable ratings suck, the "unfavorable" ratings were just as bad. Lindsey had an unfavorable rating of 83 percent. This apparently was a watershed event in the polling world. David Duke, the self-avowed racist and former Ku Klux Klan leader, got only a 60 percent unfavorable rating, the poll director said. And Lindsey had her own personal public relations guy working for her in addition to the Bishop Estate PR division.

Now, I don't want to be harsh. But if I am paying a flak out of my own pocket, and I haven't committed any crimes against humanity or ground up small furry critters in a blender at a Humane Society picnic or anything, I would expect for my unfavorable ratings to be just a tad lower then a raving lunatic racist. If not, I think it'd be time to sit down with my PR guy and discuss a rebate.

How hard can it be to convince the public that your clients are just regular old crooks and sleazeballs instead of complete scum of the Earth? You have your client visit some sick kids in hospitals. You have him serve turkey dinners to some street people. You take a picture of him shaking hands with Jesse Jackson. You do any of the obviously shabby and shameless things flaks do to con the public into believing your client isn't devil spawn.

The trustees have claimed that the polls only reflect the negative media coverage they've received. Listen, even Rupert Murdock doesn't have that kind of media power. When your favorable ratings are lower than a rat's belly abandoning a charitable trust, your problem isn't Joe Moore. It's you.

Strangely, the horrible poll numbers, combined with the $230,000 IRS lien against Lindsey, may have accomplished what all her flaks could not do. They've created sympathy. I know I feel sorry for her. And every good flak knows that pity is always good for a little positive bump in the polls.

Bishop Estate Archive

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802

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