Mercury flack for Walmart caught posing as student journalist

stephanie-harnett-fake-reporter.jpgUnion organizers recognized the Walmart public relations rep who showed up in Chinatown yesterday to press the firm's case for a new store. Her card said Stephanie Harnett, senior associate at Mercury Public Affairs. But earlier this month, she came to an anti-Walmart news conference and interviewed activists as USC student journalist Zoe Mitchell.

Busted. And now out of a job.

Walmart and Mercury both tried to put distance between the firms and the counterfeit reporter. Dennis Romero at LA Weekly:

The 10-foot poll [sic] marks on Harnett must be deep because Walmart quickly distanced itself from Harnett. It sent us this statement:

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 behavior 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 ensure this type of activity is not repeated.

Becky Warren, managing director for Mercury Public Affairs, also sent us this statement about Harnett:

The action taken by Ms. Harnett was in no way approved, authorized, 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. We are taking the necessary disciplinary actions. This is an isolated incident that has never happened before and will not happen again.

I can confirm that she is no longer with our company.

Romero reports that Harnett graduated from USC Annenberg's journalism program in 2009 and lists work experience as an editorial assistant at the Los Angeles Times and production assistant at KTLA News. The story was broken by Gawker's Hamilton Nolan.

More by Kevin Roderick:
'In on merit' at USC
Read the memo: LA Times hires again
Read the memo: LA Times losing big on search traffic
Google taking over LA's deadest shopping mall
Gustavo Arellano, many others join LA Times staff
Recent PR stories on LA Observed:
Ron Rogers, 72, public relations executive
Pulitzer winner Rob Kuznia explains his move to USC
LA Times brings on new chief flack from Obama White House
Henry Waxman joins son's PR firm in Washington
LA Times spokeswoman leaving for 'new adventures'
Doug Dowie tries to rebuild career after prison
Ex-KPCC VP Stanton lands in crisis PR
New ex-journalist PIOs in the District Attorney's office