22 May, 2006

An Open Letter to Hilton Corp.

Dear Hilton Corporation,

This is a friendly letter to try and help you understand what is about to descend on you. You have been greatly misled by the local management of Capital Hilton in Washington, DC in regards to Fran O'Brien's, and that is going to have international repercussions for you. I regret that people are going to be financially hurt along the way, and hope that this letter can have a small role in avoiding that.

Hal Koster (co-owner) and Jim Meyer (his friend who started the weekly meals for veterans) are not your average people and thus the word we hear from them about what has happened should not be dismissed as a negotiation or PR ploy. They and the circle that has developed around the Friday night dinners are combat-tested members of the military brotherhood. That means more than I can express, but I will try...

Among many reasons I and others are so convinced the Fran O'Brien's side of the story is to be believed is the following: were the accusations made against Capital Hilton through Fran O'Briens' connections false, the personal and professional consequences would be devastating to Hal and Jim and all involved. The wounded they have supported and those who have rallied to their defense would find it hard to forgive the deception and the loss of integrity it would bring to all who stood with them. The wounded would respond with fury over being used and those who have supported the wounded through the activities associated with the dinners would despise them for using the wounded. Consider how much heat you have received for simply appearing to be callous toward America's wounded warriors... then consider what the reaction would be to members of the brotherhood who consciously used the wounded for financial gain!

Those of us who have kept this story alive have not done so lightly, out of mindless outrage or petulant disappointment. This is not your averge "blogswarm." Many of the people blogging about this mess have been personally involved with helping the wounded (both in DC and around the country), and have also visited Fran O'Brien's at least once or over periods of months. We know each other through more than just pixels on the screen, and our sources are people directly associated with the dinners. We have heard from others ridiculous rumors that we have not reported, but the more we hear directly from Hilton, the more those rumors begin to be believable. When Matt of Blackfive sounds the call like he did on Friday and people respond as they have, we are serious. And we would not be doing this unless we were not intellectually convinced an injustice had been committed against Fran O'Brien's and the veterans they have supported and encouraged.

I respectfully suggest that you verify every statement General Manager Brian Kelleher has given you. Multiple people of integrity and honesty testify to us that Mr. Kelleher has told them things they know from personal experience to be untrue. I give you the benefit of the doubt, and assume there is much you do not know. For example, are you aware that despite publicly claiming that he and the staff regularly welcomed the wounded soldiers, he appeared at the Friday night festitivities for the first time only when TV cameras were there to record the event after the PR storm broke?

This letter is not a threat, as I am not in a position to cause any damage to Hilton Corporation on my own, nor to lead a phalanx of followers to do so. I'm merely sharing my observations and knowledge with you, trying to help you see what is now closing ranks against you. Read the link to Blackfive very carefully; what is developing is not a temper tantrum of the moment that will burn itself out, but the calm, rational response of the brotherhood who feel compelled to react to the injustice perpetrated against their brothers. It has weight and consequence, and it will endure.

A commmenter at Blackfive said something very astute:

You can't blame higher management and the PR people for believing their man on the scene, at least until other reports start filtering back on what really happened. Once they put Kelleher out on his ass and fix all the problems his ass created, we'll know the higher-ups got the message.
Are you getting the message yet? For the sake of your employees who will be caught in the middle as you continue to lose business, I certainly hope so.



P.S. If you need a primer on what has really been happening in DC, here's a good place to start.

[Cross-posted at Villainous Company]