About that letter from Ellie Light

Gannet Wisconsin Media acknowledged that they were duped by Obama astroturfer ‘Ellie Light’:

A woman named Ellie Light (if that is her real name) recently duped dozens of newspapers around the country, including some here in Wisconsin, into printing her letter praising President Barack Obama as if she were a local resident…

Since the Cleveland Plain Dealer broke the story Friday, Light’s bogus letter has been found in more than 60 papers and counting…

We apologize that this letter appeared on our Web site.

Thanks to Michelle Malkin for spotting the apology.

I expected The Huntsville Times to inform their readers that they were scammed by Ellie Light, so I looked through the Sunday and Monday editions for a note from the Editor or even a correction.  Nothing.

Note to Times Editor Kevin Wendt – you know (or should know) about this issue – you owe it to your readers to tell them that you published a letter praising Obama that was sent to you under false pretenses. 

Patterico reports that “Newspaper Editors Begin to Address Pro-Obama Astroturfing” and praises Mike Throne, the Editor of Ohio’s Chillicothe Gazette, who writes:

I’ve written several times on Astroturfing — a way of sending form political letters to multiple news outlets with a few key strokes — and authored a column on Jan. 17 on how the Gazette was bolstering Opinion page procedures to make sure the opinions submitted were true and accurate.

Yes, the irony of having a letter to the editor situation blow up in your face just days after saying the newspaper is following new procedures isn’t lost on me. It’s embarrassing and regrettable.

But if we hadn’t followed those procedures, I’d feel a lot worse.

In this case we did follow them and were lied to about the local nature of the opinion and the address used. In short, we were duped.

Come on, Huntsville Times – inform your readers.

13 thoughts on “About that letter from Ellie Light

  1. I’d cut The Huntsville Times a little slack on this one. I’m not sure what “astro-turfing” means (I had to look up the frequently used computer word “IMHO”), but when we’ve got kids in some rural village somewhere in Asia able to break into US bank computers and into defense computer systems, how is the local paper supposed to fight astro-turfing? The Times, pre- craiglist and back when the pages were full of car dealer ads, had three full-timers handling the editorial page and the letters. now it’s a one man operation with a little help. I’d like someone to explain how astro-turfing letters to the editor works. I’m an occasional writer of letters to editors and I change each one around some if I send it to multiple papers. Last time i tried it I succeeded with Times, Anniston Star and Birmingham News, but they were changed around letters. Pro Obama Democratic Party letters, of course.

    • As long as you provided your correct name and town of residence, that’s fine. “Ellie Light’s” letters would be fine, too, if she gave correct information. Whatever the excuse, the fact is that The Times requires letter writers to provide a phone number — a verification phone call would take only a few seconds.

      If you need to know how astroturfing works, please refer to Dear Leader’s David Axlerod, a man who has made his career by becoming a master of the craft.

  2. This has been common practice in campaigns for well over 30 years. Maybe a little disingenuous, but a common practice nonetheless. Who actually reads those letters anyway?

  3. I understand letters to the editor are among the most read parts of the paper. i doubt if any of mine sway opposition my way, but my hope is that they activate fellow believers on what is right for our area, alabama, the south, the USA, the world, to speak up, maybe write one of their own, carry the fight forward. I also hope mine show the flaws in letters from people who hold views antithetical to my views. During campaigns, i sometimes draft letters for others to recast or adapt and send to the paper(s). People eagerly take one but only very occasionally does one get submitted. They’re like yard signs and bumper stickers — a lot more end up in car trunks than posted. I did have some success in Parker’s campaign — his publicity man was good at getting letter signer-senders. Unfortunately.
    I now, after some cursory research, think I understand astroturfing. From what I’ve read a Republican oriented operator has been so fast and loose at it he is under indictment. Will he drag a few corporate executives down with him? I hope so.
    Last weekend we got a taped call saying Senator Tom Butler was part of the Obama (derogatory term i don’t remember) foisting socialist health care on America. Tom is a state senator with no vote in washington on health care. I’m sure his Republican opponent to be, someone connected with Madison government who self described himself as having “courage,” would claim he didnt have anything to do with it. What’s the name for that kind of telephone dirty campaigning? And i just read and heard that the “pimp” in the ACORN exposure of how stupid some ACORN staffers are, got caught trying to tap Louisiana senator mary landrieu’s phones. what’s the name for that kind of political activity?

    • Regarding James O’Keefe, I don’t think you will find many conservatives (this one included) who will defend his conduct if he is shown to have broken the law. But at this point, what actually occurred is still a big mystery. It has been widely claimed that he and his accomplices were trying to “bug” Sen. Landrieu’s phone, but the actual affidavit from the federal agent who arrested them does not make that claim.

      Certainly, O’Keefe’s reported conduct would seem curious for someone trying to bug a phone. The tipoff for Landrieu’s staff, after all, was the fact that O’Keefe was filming his accomplices using the camera on his cell phone. So unless he was intentionally trying to incriminate himself and make himself look suspicious at the same time, it sounds like he was carrying out another guerilla journalism stunt.

      Again, the facts are murky at this point. I am willing to wait and make judgments after we know more about what happened. Given your red-faced defenses of convicted felons like Don Siegelman and Sue Schmitz, maybe you should, too.

  4. Pingback: Yep, we got had | flashpoint

  5. ivan – you mislead people through ‘sockpuppets’. You may think of yourself as an ‘honorable’ person but your ethics have been skewed by your twisted ideology – the ends justify the means…

  6. ivan – O’Keefe did not get “caught trying to tap Louisiana senator mary landrieu’s phones”.

    Read the affidavit:

    http://www.politico.com/static/PPM145_new_012610.html

    Seems like you got your story from a WashPo reporter who has misrepresented O’Keefe in the past:

    http://patterico.com/2010/01/27/washington-post-writer-makes-assumptions-about-okeefe-that-the-facts-dont-cash-again/

    I’m sure that were I to dig into your other allegations I would find them equally baseless. For all I know, you were lying about Griffith too…

  7. “Red faced defenses” describe my efforts to try to make it clear that both don siegeman and sue schmitz were convicted because of Republican political machinations? i may have been emotional when i should have been more stick to the facts but it’s hard to not get emotional when fact after fact after fact proves conslusively that both were indicted, tried and convicted spuriously. i hoped impartial people, maybe not agreeing with me, would see my arguments as good strong ones. cant win them all.

    i told what i did to help griffith get elected, including draft letters for others to rewrite and send in. one appeared just as i wrote it. i was helping a campaign — what has honorable political activity got to do with drafting letters for other to rewrite and sign? “lying” about it. kind of a harsh accusation with no foundation and just not true, but how do i prove i used a “sockpuppet” — as one commentator described the activity. i’ve written a good bit about what went on in campaigns i worked in as campaign staff. first time i’ve been called a liar.

    • first time i’ve been called a liar.

      I seriously doubt that.

      As for Don & Sue, facts had nothing to do with your defending them — The “D” after their names was plenty for you.