How To Write A Resignation Letter In The Middle Of A Scandal Is there a right way to write and handle a resignation letter when you're embroiled in a scandal? For many ousted bosses, "spending more time with my family" is the excuse of least resistance.

How To Write A Resignation Letter In The Middle Of A Scandal

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Donald Trump released a statement today saying his campaign chairman had resigned. Trump thanked Paul Manafort for his great work, called him a true professional, but did not say why Manafort was leaving. Yesterday, the Associated Press revealed that Manafort's lobbying firm had secretly done work for pro-Kremlin Ukrainian officials. Manafort has not released a statement or resignation letter. But if he does, there's a good chance that it won't say everything. NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports resignation letters are often works of fiction, though not always.

YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: Juda Engelmayer has seen his share of corporate scandals.

JUDA ENGELMAYER: Failures, lawsuits, arrests, financial breakdowns, tainted food.

NOGUCHI: All things he's handled as head of Crisis Communications for 5W Public Relations. It's no fun, he says, dethroning a Titan over a big mistake.

ENGELMAYER: Counseling a client who's done something wrong and trying to, A, convince them that they've done something wrong, B, telling them to come out and say it to the public that's loved and adored them for a long time - not easy to do.

NOGUCHI: Engelmayer says there are shareholders and potential lawsuits to consider. So, often, the less said, the better, especially when there's a pending investigation or emotions are running very high. And that's also why so many end up saying, I want to spend time with my family.

ENGELMAYER: It's code for, I'm not going to be around. It's code for, because of what's happening, not only am I leaving this company, but I'm most likely not going to be employed by another company for a long time. You're not going to see me. You're not going to see my face come up or my name come up for a while.

NOGUCHI: In one classic example, Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling cited personal reasons for his abrupt resignation months before the company filed bankruptcy. He was later convicted on 19 counts of fraud and other crimes.

The point of resigning amid scandal is to get out of the way, to try to stop the chatter. Many just end up prolonging the pain by neither resigning nor apologizing straight up.

Think of Bill Clinton's parsing of words about his affair with Monica Lewinsky or, earlier this year, when Alabama Governor Robert Bentley issued a perplexing statement after an affair with an aide was revealed.


ROBERT BENTLEY: I love many members of my staff - in fact, all the members of my staff. Do I love more than I do others - than I do - you know, some more than others? Absolutely.

NOGUCHI: So is there anyone who can apologize and handle an ousting with aplomb? Andrew Mason gets props for his resignation style. Mason founded Groupon and took it public. But by March 2013, it faced cascading problems in its accounting, declining revenue and stock price.

ANDREW MASON: I got fired, and I went home and I sat on my couch, and I wrote the letter.

NOGUCHI: The letter opened with, I'd like to spend more time with my family - just kidding. I was fired today. Mason, now CEO of a walking-tour company called Detour, says he cringes at most resignation letters.

MASON: They often go to such great lengths to convince you that they weren't fired or that the company will be beleaguered and in the middle of an extremely-high level of crisis. And they don't even mention that. And it just struck me as so insincere, so I just didn't want to be that.

NOGUCHI: People embraced his unflinching approach - talking about missed financial expectations, his own accountability and joking about shipping off to a fat farm. Based on the response, Mason thought others might follow.

MASON: For a while, I was hoping that my resignation letter might catalyze a change in tone or approach, a broader change in approach, and it hasn't at all.

NOGUCHI: He says he might have felt more pressure to be more opaque if he'd been thinking about a new job or raising money for a new venture, but Mason says he wasn't.

MASON: To lie about that would give me a sense of shame. And it was just the wrong way to end it, and I wanted to go out on a note that allowed me to be proud, regardless of how people might perceive it.

NOGUCHI: After writing the letter, Mason says, he got off his couch and checked into a fat farm. Yuki Noguchi, NPR News, Washington.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.