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AOL CEO Tim Armstrong Has to Decide If He’s a “Tough Guy or a Wimp” Says Jeff Macke

Daily Ticker

AOL (AOL) CEO Tim Armstrong is sorry. But should he be?

After firing employee Abel Lenz in the middle of a conference call last week for filming him -- that call went viral and can be heard here -- Armstrong sent out an internal memo to AOL employees. It reads in part:

"I am writing you to acknowledge the mistake I made last Friday during the Patch all-hands meeting when I publicly fired Abel Lenz. It was an emotional response at the start of a difficult discussion dealing with many people’s careers and livelihoods. I am the CEO and leader of the organization, and I take that responsibility seriously. We talk a lot about accountability and I am accountable for the way I handled the situation, and at a human level it was unfair to Abel. I’ve communicated to him directly and apologized for the way the matter was handled at the meeting."

Related: Top CEOs Ranked By Their (Lousy) Stock Performance

Lenz remains fired, according to AOL.

And The Daily Ticker's Henry Blodget can't figure out the public's response or why Armstrong caved and apologized for the firing. "If Steve Jobs had done this, people would be holding it up as decisive, tough, demanding, enough sloth in the ranks, good move," says Blodget. "Here, Armstrong is held up as this total jerk."

"I'm pro-jerk," responds Breakout's Jeff Macke. "Shockingly, I'm in favor of being a jerk. If Mr. Armstrong wants to fire this guy, that's cool."

Related: "The Middle Class is Getting Fired" But Here's One Way to Survive: Altucher

In the video above, Macke makes the case for the "Don Corleone move." He thinks Armstrong needs to find the mole who leaked the audio from the conference call and make that person pay. "Armstrong either has to decide if he's gonna be a jerk - hardcore, gonna fire people, gonna get this done - or he's gonna be touchy feely and feel bad about it later and apologize. If you're a leader... you have to stand for something. You're either a tough guy or a wimp."

Meanwhile. Jim Romenesko has been all over this story. Now he has the latest leaked memo from AOL. In it, Jim Lipuma, Patch director of U.S. sales, warns his ad-sales force that they better step it up after a down week: "This is not the time for bunt singles."

Indeed. We all know where bunt singles fall on the "tough guy-wimpy" index.

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