A Spokeperson for the President is Unaffiliated with the President…?

I recently came across a video in which President Barack Obama takes credit for a tweet about the infamous Skeptical Science consensus paper. That tweet:

Is unquestionably wrong as it says the study shows the “consensus” is global warming is dangerous, but the study never claims to examine whether or not global warming is dangerous. All it claims to examine is whether or not there is a consensus global warming is real/man-made.

More interesting, however, is that tweet comes from the @BarackObama Twitter account whose profile specifically says:

This account is run by Organizing for Action staff. Tweets from the President are signed -bo.

The tweet in question is not signed. As such, Organizing for Action is clearly claiming the tweet came from them, not the president. It’s confusing, then, that the president would say:

In fact last year I even tweeted one of your studies in my 31, to my 31 million followers on Twitter.

In this recent speech:

What is even more confusing is the Organizing for Action group denies having any affiliation with the president. On its webpage, it answers the question, “Is OFA affiliated in any way with the federal or any other government, or funded with taxpayer dollars” with a firm, “No.”

It was always difficult to see how Organizing for Action could claim to be unaffiliated with the president while leasing the president’s name for fundraising purposes. The current situation is even more difficult to reconcile. Barack Obama gave a prepared speech in which he explicitly took credit for a tweet Organizing for Action wrote. By doing so, he indicated tweets posted by Organizing for Action under his name, whether signed by him or not, are official messages from the President of the United States.

But yet, we’re told this group is “not affiliated in any way with the federal” government. This group, which seems to official speaks for the President of the United States, claims to be unaffiliated with the government he leads.

I’ve contacted Organizing for Action to see if they can reconcile these positions. I’ll post an update if I get a response. In the meantime, we can all get a chuckle out of the President of the United States explicitly taking credit for a tweet which grossly misrepresents the study it seeks to promote.

For additional humor, we can note Organizing for Action has repeatedly been described as being non-partisan. One wonders how a mouthpiece of the President of the United States, who explicitly labels himself a member of one party, could possibly be non-partisan.

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6 comments

  1. Obama is in violation of Twitter’s Terms of Service if he disavows responsibility for authoring his own tweets. You can’t transfer blame for what you tweet by transferring your password to a mouthpiece, as Twitter makes not only clear but Harvard-Law-proof at https://twitter.com/tos :

    “Tip: What you say on Twitter may be viewed all around the world instantly. You are what you Tweet! …

    You are responsible for safeguarding the password that you use to access the Services and for any activities or actions under your password.

  2. Still, next time I tweet something I shouldn’t have I’ll just point out that I didn’t sign it “—bk” and therefore it’s the fault of someone unaffiliated with me. Best President ever.

  3. HaroldW, it was actually the CIA who coined the phrase, a handful of years before Nixon took office. I think it was first publicly used by Allen Dulles. I believe Nixon gets associated with it simply because it fits the atmosphere of his presidency, and the term hadn’t been around for long.

    Of course, the idea had been around for a long time before that. I’d wager it’s been used for thousands of years, and I know it has been for at least five hundred.

    (Five bucks says everything I just said can be found in the Wikipedia article for this phrase.)

  4. You’d win that bet, Brandon.. 🙂

    Wikipedia has a reference to similar phrasing by the National Security Council in 1948 (Truman admin.) “plausibly disclaim any responsibility” for covert operations. That and Dulles’ usage concerned state actions, not political operations. Ad further back, to the murder of Thomas Becket.

    The Wiki article also contained an unexpected (to me, anyway) reference to Charles Babbage.. And a link to a contest in which programmers are set a task to perform a desired function by clever mis-coding which can plausibly appear to be a simple mistake.

  5. You might also contact the IRS. I am no expert on tax law, but this is fairly straightforward so I think I am right in saying that OFA are violating their tax-exempt status. Although some political activity would be allowed, this seems to fall very clearly outside that, as indeed would all use of Obama’s name on Twitter and Facebook (I believe OFA also runs BHO’s Facebook account).

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