During the 2008 campaign, when then-Sen. Barack Obama had to contend with rumors that he was everything from a Secret Kenyan Muslim to a chupacabra, his campaign launched a website called “Fight The Smears.”
In 2012, that effort has been transformed into a “Truth Team,” a three-pronged effort to push back on attacks against the President, highlight his own record, and pick apart his opponents’ statements about their own records. One of those prongs is a less scary-looking version of the AttackWatch site the campaign launched in September. From Obama For America’s press release:
Beginning today with events across the country and continuing through the election, the Truth Team will engage grassroots supporters to spread the truth about the President’s record and respond to Republican attacks. The program will be housed atBarackObama.com/TruthTeam, with individual websites – KeepingHisWord.com, KeepingGOPHonest.com, and AttackWatch.com – serving as quick, comprehensive resources to help set the record straight. Designed to put responsibility for spreading the truth in the hands of the President’s supporters, the websites contain videos and information on the President’s record, and fact checks on Republican claims about the President and themselves. The sites also contain tools for sharing materials via Facebook, Twitter and email, and empowers supporters to take further action by volunteering, writing letters to the editor, sending postcards to undecided voters with information about the President’s record, and more. The goal is to ensure that when Republicans attack President Obama’s record, grassroots supporters can take ownership of the campaign and share the facts with the undecided voters in their lives.
In September, the Obama campaign launched AttackWatch, a sinister-looking iteration of “Fight The Smears” that caused a furious, at times panicky, backlash among conservatives. Fox News didn’t help, at one point reporting, then correcting, that the AttackWatch site was launched by the White House. While the campaign trumpeted the site’s success at attracting supporters, the uproar faded.
Now, AttackWatch is back with an updated look. Gone is the stark black background, and some of the more tabloid-y design touches, replaced by an off-white and bluish-gray scheme and lots of earnest “Truth Team” iconography. Their logo is a sort of Slomin’s Shield for smears. There’s still an option to “report an attack,” which I tried out in September (I reported on people making fun of AttackWatch), but nothing ever happened.
The media has often bristled at this White House’s criticism of the press, but this site’s existence is, at least in part, the result of the political news media’s habit of letting Republicans repeat, unchallenged, bald falsehoods about the President’s record. One great example of this is Mitt Romney‘s constant refrain that the President “made the recession worse,” punctuated by the occasional denial that he ever said that, and the occasional admission that the economy is, in fact, getting better.
The recent debate over the Preventive Services Mandate was also rich fodder for unchallenged Republican falsehoods.
Of course, a site like this will have little impact over how the press covers the President, but it does give supporters a clearinghouse of talking points for those heated dinner-table arguments. The main object, though, is to continue the Obama campaign’s effort to make supporters feel involved, part of the team, while also providing ample opportunity for those supporters to “give as little as $3” to help in the fight.
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