Spin doctor deals bad medicine

Published 9:58 am Tuesday, June 28, 2016

With the 2016 campaign season in full swing at the state and national levels, my email inbox is a buzz of activity.

Campaign officials associated with all these candidates – some I’ve never heard of – will send out an email when their man (or woman) sneezes.

What I find so amusing is the political spin used in a campaign. Those campaign officials are getting downright creative when it comes to trying make me (and others) believe what they “spinning” is the truth.

This past Friday, just minutes after incumbent NC Governor Pat McCrory and his democratic challenger this fall – current NC Attorney General Roy Cooper – stepped off the stage following their first debate, my email lit-up with both sides claiming victory.

The following came from McCrory’s camp:

“The first North Carolina gubernatorial debate just concluded, and it was a clear, decisive victory for Governor McCrory. While Roy Cooper only offered negative attacks and tired rhetoric, Governor McCrory used facts to back up his record of increasing teacher pay, creating jobs and growing the economy. Now, it’s up to us to turn this strong debate performance into a victory on Election Day.”

Not to be outdone, Cooper responded in an email, saying: “After today’s debate, it’s clear: we simply cannot afford another four years of Governor McCrory’s failed leadership. Our teachers deserve more respect. Our economy needs to work for everyone — not just those at the top. We deserve better than a governor who puts political ideology ahead of the best interests of our state.”

But when it comes to political spin, there’s nothing juicier than the race for president. I received the following email last week, one claiming that a professional genealogical researcher discovered that Hillary Clinton’s great-great uncle, Remus Rodham, was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Montana in 1889.

The research showed that old Uncle Remus was sent to Montana Territorial Prison in 1885 for his horse thievery. However, he escaped two years later and continued his life of crime by robbing the Montana Flyer (train) six times. He was eventually nabbed by the infamous Pinkerton detectives, convicted, and hanged in 1889.

The person performing this research allegedly e-mailed Hillary Clinton for comments. It is alleged her staff of professional image adjusters (aka “spin doctors”) sent back the following biographical sketch:

“Remus Rodham was a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory. His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1885, he devoted several years of his life to service at a government facility, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, Remus passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed.”

Pardon the texting abbreviation at this juncture, but….LOL!!!

Of course, nothing about the Remus Rodman story is true, but is a great example of how political spin works. The same completely fictional spin circulated years ago. In those cases, “Uncle Remus” belonged to Tipper Gore, the wife of former Vice President Al Gore, and Laura Bush, the wife of former President George W. Bush. While neither had a horse thief for an uncle, just like in Hillary’s case, the political spin was the same (just changing the uncle’s last name).

But what is true is that un-educated voters will believe this garbage. It’s all part of the political process, one that has eroded to the point where soundbites are more important that substance.

We once rallied around the cry, “Truth in Politics.” Now, “spin” has driven us to the point of total disengagement with the political process. TV and print ads during a heated battle between adversaries seeking the same political office contain just a whisper of the truth. The rest is spin, joined by a heavy dose of character assassination.


Cal Bryant is Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

email author More by Cal