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IACM 2023

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When and How Public Figures Make Professional Comebacks Following Metoo Accusations

Between 2017–2019, 276 public figures were publicly accused of sexual misconduct as part of the MeToo movement. Most of these public figures were “canceled” (fired, forced to resign, etc.). However, recently many of these public figures have been making comebacks: some (but not all) have received new professional opportunities and/or have a public presence once again. This raises the questions: how do professional comebacks happen? And what makes a comeback attempt more or less successful? To answer these questions, we compiled a dataset of all 267 public figures accused between 2017–2019. For each public figure, extremely detailed case histories of: the accusations made against them; the text of every public statement they made or public action they took following the accusation through December 2022; and everything that happened to them following the accusation through December 2022. This data collection effort produced a dataset of over 7,800 observations (statements, actions, etc.) across 267 public figures. Using a mixed-methods approach (inductive qualitative coding as well as quantitative analysis), we have been able to articulate several consistent patterns in how public figures respond following accusations. Despite similarities in response patterns following accusations, we actually see substantial variation in how successful these public figures’ comeback attempts were. We propose several reasons for this variation.

Erin Frey
The Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California
United States


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