Hoax: Newspapers Played Over Fake Obama Letter

Dozens of newspapers around the country have fallen for a fairly simple hoax apparently orchestrated by a person or organization supporting President Barack Obama. The hoax was first reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The letter, which began showing up in newspapers around Jan. 10, concludes with the following statement: "... today, the president is being attacked as if he were a salesman who promised us that our problems would wash off in the morning. He never made such a promise. It's time for Americans to realize that governing is hard work, and that a president can't just wave a magic wand and fix everything."

Similar versions of the letter, attributed to the same writer, claiming local residence in each case, were signed by an "Ellie Light." It has been published by at least 65 newspapers in 31 states, as well as Politico, a USA Today blog, and at least two foreign publications, according to political blog Hot Air, which has been tracking the letter.

In addition to appearing in dozens of smaller local newspapers, the letter has been published by the Philadelphia Daily News, San Francisco Examiner, Baltimore Chronicle and Washington Times.



In each case "Light" has claimed to be a local, claiming residence in states including Alabama, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.

When pressed by Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Sabrina Eaton to explain this implausible pattern of real estate ownership, "Light" dodged the question, merely remarking: "I do not write as a representative of any organization.

"The letter I wrote was motivated by surprise and wonderment at the absence of any media support for our President, who won a record-breaking election by a landslide less than 18 months ago, and now, seems to be abandoned by all, supposedly for the infantile reason that he couldn't make all of Bush's errors disappear in a day."

However, the letter's carefully crafted rhetoric and the sheer scale of the effort may belie the claim of individual authorship. In recent years, Democrats and Republicans alike have employed tactics known as "Astroturfing," in which political operatives attempt to stir up publicity and control public discourse through seemingly spontaneous, uncoordinated "grassroots" campaigns.

2 comments about "Hoax: Newspapers Played Over Fake Obama Letter".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, January 26, 2010 at 12:03 p.m.

    David Axelrod has been accused of orchestrating the letters, but no evidence is available. Aside from politics as usual (hardly the transparent change everyone was promised), this episode speaks more to the staff cuts at newspapers, which formerly did a better job vetting those letters to the editor. I can understand the small town dailies but how did USA Today succumb to the scam?

  2. Joe Jacobs, January 26, 2010 at 2:09 p.m.

    Hmmmmm... one fake letter supporting the President vs. 150+ fake ones criticizing and vilifying him - sounds 'fair and balanced' to me... if I were a Right Winger.

    These days, I thank God I'm not one of those people.

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