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Trevor Potter Quoted in Politico, New-style Scandal Fixer Helps Rick Perry, Herman Cain

December 15, 2011, Politico
Excerpt taken from article.

The Huffington Post dispatched a reporter to Texas this summer to investigate rumors about Rick Perry's personal life, hoping for an irresistible story about hypocrisy.

Enter Lin Wood.

Retained by Perry's gubernatorial campaign committee, the acclaimed libel lawyer fired off a letter to the website in August, threatening to sue if the story ran an aggressive response even for a candidate whose aides later admitted they entered Def Con 9 mode when long-circulating rumors began to swirl anew as Perry prepared to run for president.

The Huffington Post's founder Arianna Huffington said recently the website didn't spike the story because of Wood's letter, but because there was simply no there there.

Still, Wood's behind-the-scenes work for Perry and his more public efforts last month to shoot down allegations of sexual impropriety leveled at former Perry rival Herman Cain suggest there's an appetite among high-profile campaigns for a more aggressive response to damaging stories. And though some Washington scandal veterans argue Wood's confrontational approach which blends litigation-style PR with legal threats and actual lawsuits is better suited for Hollywood and supermarket tabloid stories, others predict the demand for those services will only expand as scandals increasingly dominate political coverage that spreads rapidly online.

I'm not out looking for business, Wood told POLITICO. But I think that any candidate for public office would be well advised to have the benefit of an experienced opinion on whether a particular article or a particular accusation might rise to the level of being actionable defamation, because I'm afraid that the environment is such that this type of reporting is not going to get better. I'm afraid that it's only going to get worse.

Political lawyers serve their clients well by trying to block damaging stories from running and by seeking to stop the spread of those that do, said Trevor Potter, who was the top lawyer for McCain's presidential campaigns in 2000 and 2008.

"In my experience, it is not unusual to hire lawyers and to have them intervene with news media to essentially litigate a story in the hopes that it can be knocked down and proven unsubstantiated before it is printed," said Potter. "And obviously, from the campaign standpoint, you don't want to have an accuser out there doing a press tour day after day. On the other hand, if you can't prove it's false, that's a political problem, not a legal problem.

Click here to read the article about the role of defamation specialists during political scandals.


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