Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, is facing a tough confirmation process. Now there is a phony letter writing campaign that is aimed at unsuspecting American newspaper editors.
At least 21 papers were fooled last week, including big-market brands like the Dallas Morning News and The Washington Times. They ran the same letters over a four-day period, each signed by a different person.
The campaign is an example of public-relations “astroturfing,” which is a technique meant to simulate genuine grassroots support for an idea or cause.
The letter begins by saying that “Brett Kavanaugh is the wrong choice to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. If he is confirmed to the Supreme Court, everything that we hold dear as a nation will be at stake.”
It continues warning that Kavanaugh could be a swing-vote on the high court “that takes away our rights’ and awards new levels of political influence to ‘mega-donors with extreme agendas.”
In an email Saturday, White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah dismissed the practice as inconsequential and amateurish.
“I suppose that’s a clever way to ensure message discipline,” he said, “but we think most Americans will see through these tactics and be impressed with Judge Kavanaugh’s sterling record and qualifications.”
Richard Lodge is the editor of The Eagle-Tribune in North Andover, Massachusetts. He said Friday that he called the “signer” of the letter his paper ran, and “[s]he said she didn’t send it.”
“I got duped, which is embarrassing and frustrating,” he added.
Quin Hillyer, a contirbuting editor at National Review Online who spotted the trend, said that the “rather transparent astro-turfing shows that the Leftist intensity against Kavanaugh is not naturally widespread, but instead is manufactured by paid agents. It’s unclear who those agents are.”
Large news agencies that have run the letter since July 11 include: The Washington Times (DC), the Boston Herald (MA), The Columbus Dispatch (OH), the Dallas Morning News (TX) and the San Antonio Express-News (TX).
The Grand Junction Sentinel (CO) was a victim, along with The Wilmington News Journal (DE), the Coeur d’Alene Press (ID), The Forum (Fargo, ND) and the Beaumont Enterprise (TX) .
Smaller newspapers that published the letter included the Santa Monica Daily Press (CA), The Union Democrat (Sonora, CA), the Daily News (Newburyport, MA), The Eagle-Tribune (North Andover, MA), the Daily Hampshire Gazette (Northampton, MA), The Times Herald-Record (Middletown, NY), the Daily Reflector (Greenville, NC), The Express Times (Easton, PA), the Republican Herald (Pottsville, PA), The Herald-Zeitung (Brownsville, TX) and the Martinsville Bulletin (VA).