160: Character Assassination
May 19, 2000
In context of the Presidential contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore, we hear stories of character assassination...political and non-political.
- Host Ira Glass talks with Jack E. Robinson, Republican candidate for Senate in Massachusetts. Within 24 hours of announcing that he was going to collect signatures to get on the ballot to run against Teddy Kennedy, Robinson was attacked in the press. And so he tried a novel tactic: He issued a long public statement that is simply one of the most remarkable documents of current political life in this country. He called it The Robinson Report and posted it on the Internet for anyone to read. It outlines, in matter-of-fact prose and a disturbing level of detail, everything he thinks he's ever done wrong. It's not clear if this helped him, or if it simply seemed so strange that people didn't know what to make of it. (5 minutes)
- Dirty political attacks go back to the very beginning of the American Republic. What's different today, says historian Richard Norton Smith, is that television and the other electronic media have made our contact with the candidates so intimate. It has greater emotional impact on us because we see every wince cross a candidate's face. What could be more intimate than Jack E. Robinson's car crash, recorded on tape? (5 minutes)
- There is an entire class of consultant who does nothing but help people and companies that are under public attack. Eric Dezenhall is one of them. He works for a crisis management firm in Washington DC, and has written a book about his craft, called Nail 'Em. (9 minutes)Song: "Washington, D.C.", The Magnetic Fields
- There's little in adult life that can hurt as much as a character assassination attack when it happens in junior high school. We hear the story of how one boy organizes the entire school against his former best friend, a guy named Bob Cucuzza. (15 minutes)