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10 Most Deceptive PR Campaigns in History


6
American Red Cross Covers Up Poor Performance
An American Red Cross (ARC) volunteer hands out water to Greensburg, Kansas locals after a tornado destroyed their town in 2007. While the ARC has done a lot of good work, it's also been criticized for mismanagement in recent years. © Mike Theiss/Ultimate Chase/Corbis
An American Red Cross (ARC) volunteer hands out water to Greensburg, Kansas locals after a tornado destroyed their town in 2007. While the ARC has done a lot of good work, it's also been criticized for mismanagement in recent years. © Mike Theiss/Ultimate Chase/Corbis

This venerable organization and its volunteers have been helping people suffering from wars, natural disasters and other tragedies since 1881 [source: American Red Cross]. Or have they? While the American Red Cross (ARC) undoubtedly has done much good over the years, it stumbled badly in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac and Superstorm Sandy, both of which slammed portions of the U.S. in 2012. Shortly after both storms, the Red Cross was caught empty-handed, often without such basic supplies as food and batteries to dole out to victims [source: Sullivan].

There was one thing the Red Cross succeeded at, however — covering up its poor performance. According to an investigation by ProPublica and NPR, in the aftermath of Isaac, an ARC official ordered 80 of its empty trucks to be driven around a Mississippi town just for show. During the Sandy cleanup, a full 40 percent of all available trucks were pulled off the streets simply to be visible in the background during news conferences. The Red Cross also wasted a ton of food — about 30 percent of meals it prepared went uneaten because it didn't have accurate information about where the hungry people were. And in one case, officials demanded a huge mobile kitchen (that had closed for lack of need) be restarted as demonstration just for donors [source: Elliott, Eisinger and Sullivan].


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