PolitiFact Exposes Conservatives' Absurd Attack That Obama Behind AZ Memorial's “Branding”

Once again, in their rush to attack President Obama, conservatives failed to check the accuracy of their claims. Yesterday, as part of their attacks on Obama over his widely praised speech at the memorial for the victims of the Tucson, Arizona shooting, conservative media figures cooked up the claim, absent any evidence, that the White House was behind the memorial's “branding.” They accused the White House of coming up with the memorial's slogan, “Together We Thrive,” and the design logo of the T-shirts that were handed out to attendees. Some even admitted that they had no evidence on which to base their claim.

Today, the “Truth-O-Meter” at PolitiFact.com rated the conservative claim "False," writing that “officials at the University of Arizona said the White House had nothing to do with the name or the logo.” Discussing Michelle Malkin's post claiming that Obama was behind the event's branding, PolitiFact continued:

“The name of the event and the logo for the event were done entirely by the university,” said Johnny Cruz, a spokesman for the University of Arizona. “Branding of the event was not done in consultation with the White House, or any elected officials or political organization.”

The T-shirts were also the university's doing, Cruz said.

“That was the university's idea,” he said. “We wanted to give people something to remember, to symbolize the community spirit.”

The university bought the shirts without the use of taxpayer dollars, although he wasn't sure if the cost was borne by donations.

“Almost everything was done by the university,” Cruz said, including selection of the location for the event and planning the agenda. Once the president accepted an invitation, he said, the White House helped coordinate some logistics, such as security, but that was the extent of the White House involvement.

And “Together We Thrive” was conceived by a University of Arizona student, he said.

Right-wing media that ran with the claim include:

  • Jim Hoft, who wrote in a January 12 post on his Gateway Pundit blog: “Maybe it's something new? T-shirts at a pep rally memorial...Every memorial needs a special T-shirt. Doesn't it?” The post was titled: “They Couldn't Help It... Team Obama Hands Out T-Shirts at Pep Rally Memorial.”
  • The Ace of Spades blog, which in a January 12 post, posted a picture of a volunteer laying the “Together We Thrive” T-shirts on the back of chairs. Ace wrote: “This has nothing to do with photo-ops. All memorial services and funerals have their own slogans and t-shirts these days. Didn't you know that?” Ace, who acknowledged, “I don't have any evidence the t-shirts were put out by Obama's people,” nevertheless continued: “I suspect they were, but it could have been Brewer's people. It could also have been Giffords' family or supporters. ... But while I have no evidence it's Obama's fault I'm sure he is just the same.”
  • Michelle Malkin, who, in a January 12 post on her blog, complained about the presence of T-shirts and slogans featuring the “Together We Thrive” logo, and wrote: “Yes, the Tucson massacre is being branded.” Malkin asked: “Can't the Democrat political stage managers give it a break just once?” In a later update to her post, Malkin acknowledged that the logo “may indeed be a 100 percent-campus-initiated campaign,” but dismissed it, concluding: “Given the Obama White House's meticulous attention to stage prop details, however, I would say the odds of involvement by Axelrod/Plouffe & Co. are high.”

Addressing Malkin's update, PolitiFact concluded:

But university spokesman Cruz said all of the “stage prop details,” as Malkin called them, were entirely conceived by and arranged by the college.

The burden of proof is on Malkin and she has failed to prove any White House involvement. She may believe she sees the handiwork of the White House at play, but there's no evidence to back that up. Certainly not enough to justify her claim the White House used the shooting tragedy as an opportunity to orchestrate a “branded” political event. We rate Malkin's claim False.