During Watergate, 40 years ago, Nixon press secretary Ron Ziegler became infamous for having to repeatedly brief reporters and backtrack on things he had told them. This all came to a head during one memorable press conference, in March of 1973. After Nixon gave his latest statement on Watergate, Ziegler took the podium in front of an infuriated press corps.
Nope, there's no contractions between what Nixon said before and he said just now. Nope, nada. No. Insistently, now: no. no. Again, and again, again and once more, No! But the battering took its toll. With the eighteenth question, Ziegler crumbled.
"This is the operative statement," he said as the press gazed in mute astonishment.
"The others are inoperative."
His credibility -- not to mention that of the White House -- never recovered. It even became part of his obituary when he died.
We've come to the operative/inoperative statement part of this scandal. In a statement released this morning, Manchester City admitted to "mistakes" in how Frank Lampard's contract was characterized, and admitted that he had never signed a contract with New York City.
"The statement on the NYCFC website in July saying Lampard’s two-year contract took effect from Aug 1, 2014 was a mistake. [The] initial statement on City’s website that it was a loan was also an error."
The Times' James Ducker expanded on this in a series of tweets. This one, in particular, stood out.
3. There was never a break clause in Lampard’s contract dated 31 December – his short-term contract with City only ran to Dec 31.— James Ducker (@DuckerTheTimes) January 9, 2015
Remember that one; we'll get back to it shortly.
In a related statement to the Associated Press, CFG acknowledged that the July press conference where Lampard's contract was announced "was a genuine error which throws everything into confusion. It wasn't a contract. It's an agreement with City Football Group with intention to play for NYCFC."
Finally, New York City "acknowledged on Friday that it unintentionally misled fans by wrongly announcing the signing of Frank Lampard," piping up like a kid brother.
So, where does this leave us?
First, let's acknowledge what happened here. This is what's known as a limited hangout. A limited hangout is a public relations technique that involves the release of previously hidden information in order to prevent a greater exposure of more important details.
It's usually recognizable because it involves a release or "mea culpa" type of confession of only part of a set of previously hidden sensitive information. Doing that establishes credibility for the one releasing the information, because by doing so, they appear to be "coming clean", and acting with integrity. In reality, though, by withholding key facts, they are protecting a greater, deeper crime and everyone who could be exposed if the whole truth came out.
Sometimes, it works; often, it doesn't. Notice that it leaves out why both teams thought it was a contract. It doesn't mention why Manchester City referred to it as an error. But that's not the biggest one. The biggest one is that Manchester City claims that there was no break clause in Lampard's contract.
Turns out I'm not the only one. The Daily Mail noticed it, and so did the Premier League.
Now, however, the Premier League have been in touch with City to complain about the suggestion from them that Lampard's contract only ran until December 31.
The League insist that's not the case and have pointed out that it would have been in direct contravention of Premier League rule T11 which insist a contract must be for a minimum of 12 months.
Indeed the Premier League have assured Mail Online that the contract they agreed to was one for the whole season and did contain a break clause for the end of the last calendar year. That clause was utilised after discussions between City and the Premier League on New Year's Eve, thus allowing Lampard to play – and score the winner – against Sunderland the next day.
Talks are currently ongoing between the Premier League and City and it may well be that the English champions release another statement on Friday evening.
This could have serious implications for Manchester City. They could get fined, they could get docked points, hell, they could even get kicked out of the Champions League. No matter the penalty, this is a huge black eye for Manchester City.
This is what happens when people try to outwit the system. The system might be slow, but it bites back.