Earlier this month, a flack named Stephanie Harnett—who worked for Mercury Public Affairs, and whose client was Wal-Mart—was caught posing as a reporter to sneak into an anti-Wal-Mart event in Los Angeles. She was fired soon after we published the story, and both Wal-Mart and Mercury decried her actions. The firm said that Harnett was not acting on their orders. (Later, a different former PR person who worked on Wal-Mart's behalf told us that she had been instructed to use similar tactics by her own firm.)
Clearly, Wal-Mart was unsatisfied: they've cut their ties with Mercury PR. Actually, according to Wal-Mart, they've "mutually decided to end their 'business relationship.'" Which means, in plain English, that Wal-Mart fired them. If any company knows how detrimental these PR fuckups can be, it's Wal-Mart. They're not playing around.
Stephanie Harnett has had her own reputation damaged by all of this. If you're out there, Stephanie, we'd like to hear your side of the story. And if anyone else who's worked on PR matters for Wal-Mart has anything to share, we'd like to hear from you too.