Stephanie Harnett, an associate at Mercury Public Affairs, allegedly posed as a reporter to spy on a pro-labour group, reports Hamilton Nolan at Gawker.That is, to say the least, frowned upon.
Mercury is being paid to help Walmart in Los Angeles, where the world’s largest retailer is trying to open a controversial new store.
The news was first announced by the affected group, Warehouse Workers United, which held a presser to say that it was “infiltrated by an undercover Walmart functionary.”
How did they catch her?
Harnett signed onto WWU’s media list for a closed press conference with the alias “Zoe Mitchell,” a “USC student,” and she tape recorded a 20-minute interview with a warehouse worker.
Then, a week later, she showed up to another press conference, handing out business cards with “Stephanie Harnett” on them and saying that she works for Walmart.
It was later confirmed by the PR firm, which clarified, “the action taken by Ms. Harnett was in no way approved, authorised, or directed by Walmart or Mercury. Stephanie is a junior member of our team who made an immature decision. She showed very poor judgment and Mercury takes full responsibility.”
Mercury has announced that Harnett is no longer with the company.
Here’s what a Walmart spokesperson said to Gawker:
“These actions were unacceptable, misleading and wrong. Our culture of integrity is a constant at Walmart and by not properly identifying herself, this individual’s behaviour was contrary to our values and the way we do business. We insist that all our vendors conduct themselves in a way that is transparent and honest and we will reinforce that expectation to help ensure this type of activity is not repeated.”
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