The Blog

A Well-Orchestrated Smear Campaign

2:43 PM, May 12, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

It was only a month ago that the Times exposed for all the world the existence of (gasp) a political campaign being run right out of the campaign offices of Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Today we get the second installment in the series -- the Bloomberg campaign may actually be feeding negative information to the press about their unofficial opponent:

Like clockwork, the calls from reporters arrive around 4 p.m., sending Representative Anthony D. Weiner's staff members scurrying to defend their boss.

Did Mr. Weiner solicit campaign contributions from foreign fashion models, asked one reporter. Was his fight to save a hospital a political favor for a donor, asked another.

"It is just every single day," Mr. Weiner said. "It's surreal."

But the last straw, he said, was an article in The New York Post claiming that he had repeatedly skipped votes in Congress to play hockey in New York - a claim that his staff denied.

Mr. Weiner said that despite backing away from plans to run for mayor this year, he remains the target of a well-orchestrated smear campaign that can be traced to the re-election bid of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

The paper then goes on to assert that the Bloomberg strategy is backfiring -- because it's only making Weiner mad. "I don't walk away from a fight," Weiner says, as if he would make a decision like this on the basis of anything other than a rational review of polling, resources, and his capacity to win. And of course the paper has no evidence that the strategy is actually backfiring, evidence that might come in the form of polling data showing New York voters perceive Bloomberg to be running a negative campaign and are souring on the incumbent as a result.

Weiner has a history of this kind of chest puffing, though, telling New York magazine just last week that the 'N' on his tie "stands for Not to Be F--ed With … That's me, Anthony Not to Be F--ed With Weiner." Well, somebody's obviously f--king with him, and and as Ben Smith points out, Weiner's real "problem is that the stories he's complaining about, whoever is suggesting them, are so good."

And the Bloomberg machine is so effective. Even in today's Times piece, the Bloomberg campaign doesn't miss the chance to twist the knife. My former boss and current Bloomberg spokesman Jill Hazelbaker regurgitates every one of these negative stories in a single quote, telling the paper:

"This is an argument between Anthony Weiner and the New York press corps," she said. "If he chooses to play hockey instead of doing his job in Washington, if he chooses to accept questionable campaign contributions, if he chooses to put press conferences ahead of passing legislation, then it's no one's fault but his own when reporters write about those choices."

Weiner's strategy of whining to the New York Times is much more likely to backfire than Bloomberg's strategy of destroying his opponent in the pages of every other New York newspaper.