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Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire?
By: Gerard E. Mayers
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According to Wikipedia, public relations is the practice of managing the flow of information between an individual or an organization and the public.[1] Public relations may include an organization or individual gaining exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment.[2] That being said, it would seem to this flack that truthfulness might be a good component of effective public relations.
The day after the first Presidential debate (see my earlier blog here), in which the Republican nominee clearly walked away the winner, the Democrats all trotted out with their reaction. Rather than just forthrightly admit their candidate, that is, the current incumbent of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, was not properly prepared, the Democrat response was to simply call Romney “a liar.”
That reminded me of the old children’s’ taunt of “Lair, liar, pants on fire.” It also reminded me of the one clever Progressive insurance ad where two representatives of that carrier’s competitors were shown to have their pants “on fire” for lying about what their company provided that Progressive (supposedly) didn’t. The taunt brings forth a question: What does doing that say about the presidential campaign that resorts to such a tactic? Are the Democrats doing that due to Romney, in effect, calling Obama a “liar” right on national television during the debate? (Unlike many of the statements from the Obama campaign, the Romney campaign seemed to have the facts on its side during the first debate.) Now, we all know that politicians can be very skilled at stretching the truth and even lying when necessary.
No one other than the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger recently weighed in on the matter. In his article (which appeared originally in the October 11, 2012 print edition of the WSJ under the title of “Obama and the L-Word”; the online version can be read in its totality here), he noted:
“The election campaign of the 44th U.S. president is now calling another candidate for the American presidency a "liar." This is a new low. It is amazing and depressing to hear this term being used as a formal strategy by people at the highest level of American politics....Explicitly calling someone a "liar" is—or used to be—a serious and rare charge, in or out of politics. It's a loaded word. It crosses a line. "Liar" suggests bad faith and conscious duplicity—a total, cynical falsity….This Obama campaign is saying, We don't want to compete with Mitt Romney. We want to obliterate him. How did it happen that an accusation once confined to the lowest, whiskey-soaked level of politics or rank propaganda campaigns is occurring daily in American politics?”
How, indeed?
1. Grunig, James E. and Hunt, Todd. Managing Public Relations. (Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984), 6e.
2. Seitel, Fraser P. The Practice of Public Relations. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007), 10e.

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About the Author
Gerard E. "Gerry" Mayers writes about PR and other relevant topics for PR professionals. A former PR manager for Sensor Products, Inc. (currently based in Madison, NJ), he lives in Milford, NJ.
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