Anything Goes: Campaign by Rumor and Slander in the Wisconsin Recall

Wait…who’s “Dan”?

Combining  confirmation bias, whereby any uncomplimentary rumor about one’s enemy is assumed to be true, with “ends justify the means” political warfare philosophy, can banish all fairness and honesty from political campaigns. Spreading slanderous falsehoods about candidates for office is as old as the United States, but the internet and social networking sites, along with the increasingly irresponsible news media, allow the unethical tactic to be more effective, and sinister, than ever.

Now, fearing that the vengeance of the public unions, as orchestrated by the Democratic Party, is going to fall short in tomorrow’s recall election in Wisconsin, the foes of Governor Scott Walker grabbed a manufactured smear about Walker fathering a love child 24 years ago, and have made every effort to make it viral. An anti-Walker website called the Wisconsin Citizens Media Co-op [“a group of citizen journalists who began covering the Wisconsin Uprising in February, 2011. We came from different walks of life, different professional backgrounds and different parts of the state to document the dismantling of democratic process and tradition taking place in our state under the right wing onslaught of the Scott Walker regime”] recounted a second-hand story by an anti-Walker  classmate of the governor, who purported to have inside knowledge about his efforts to cover-up his impregnation of her roommate while he was running for class president (yes, this is another school days smear, like the Romney prep school episode. If you can’t beat ’em as adults, beat ’em as kids. That seems to be the current philosophy in both political camps. Phew!).

The source was a certain Bernadette Gillick. The site didn’t bother to check with the alleged mother of Walker’s “love child;” all the better to engage in the time-honored staple of the lying rumor-monger, the damning “what if?”. “If Bernadette’s story is true, Ruth – and eventually their child – were just a few of the people who got in the way of Walker’s quest for power,” the “scoop” concludes.

It took Milwaukee  Journal Sentinel reporter Daniel Bice a couple of phone calls to prove the story false. He tracked down and talked to  Gillick’s freshman-year roommate, and she denied that Walker was the father of her child. She confirmed that she got pregnant as a first-year student, but said that Gillick is confused. Bice also showed that another source of the rumor had confused a family court suit involving a Scott Alan Walker and attributing it to the Governor, Scott Kevin Walker.

But never mind what the facts were; using rumors to mislead voters and steal elections has nothing to do with facts. Multiple sources and a wave of tweets used the fake story to impugn Walker in a desperate, last minute effort to turn the tide of what is looking like an embarrassing defeat for the unions and the Democrats. Among the users of the smear was the reliably unscrupulous Daily Kos, which bleated, “OMFG!!! Scott Walker’s got a love child ?!?!

The public union assault and vilification of Scott Walker for doing his job as he felt was necessary has been unjustified and unconscionable from the beginning, and the recall has been exposed as a bullying tactic, attempting to undermine the electoral process. Unfortunately for his political foes, but fortunately for Wisconsin, Walker’s policies have improved the financial outlook in the state, though it has weakened the unions. With allies like Wisconsin Citizens Media Co-op, they deserve to be weakened.


Pointer: Instapundit

Source: Twitchy

Graphic: Games and Junk

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

5 thoughts on “Anything Goes: Campaign by Rumor and Slander in the Wisconsin Recall

  1. If there is a better argument for why public employee unions should NOT be weakened, I haven’t seen one. On the other hand, George Meany, revered national labor leader, President of the AFL-CIO for 25 years, was way ahead of us all on this….

    ” On December 4, 1955, literally the eve of the AFL-CIO merger, the New York Times magazine published an article by Meany in which he set forth this view: ‘It is impossible to bargain collectively with the government.’ His quote in greater context:

    …4) Certain business leaders may consider “big government” or socialism more of an immediate threat to their interests than communism. Are they allowing themselves to be deluded by their own propaganda to the effect that organized labor in this country is in favor of big government or the nationalization of industry?

    Nothing could be further from the truth. The main function of American trade unions is collective bargaining. It is impossible to bargain collectively with the government. Unions, as well as employers, would vastly prefer to have even Government regulation of labor-management relations reduced to a minimum consistent with the protection of the public welfare… ”


  2. This really smacks of desperation. Big Labor has put it all on the line, in money and in reputation, to defeat Walker in an election that could be a bigger bellweather for the future than the North Carolina homosexual referendum. If the governor prevails, other wavering Blue States could take heart and follow suit with his reforms. Behind it all is the union nightmare of a GOP Congress inclined to a national Right To Work law.

      • I don’t know how they were supposed to do that. Their argument was essentially “we don’t want to give up our benefits, which are better than yours, or contribute something a little closer to what you all pay for your health care, or lose our ability to have our dues collected for us, or our mutual back-scratching arrangement with Democratic legislators, just to get the state’s finances in order without a massive tax hike.” The rest of the argument was, as I understand it, “Governor Walker is a monster and like Hitler because he doesn’t kowtow at the altar or unions, even though public unions are a distortion of the purpose behind organized labor, and elections don’t count as long as we can force a do-over with out of state money forcing a recall on the basis that the governor is doing his job but not licking our hand in the process.”

        I don’t find that a compelling theme.

        • I don’t know how they were supposed to do that.

          Find other policies that Governor Walker supported which were hugely unpopular with the larger electorate. Of course, that assumes such policies were available to find…

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