Fake news for the American Revolution | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 134 Number 2
  • ISSN: 0040-7518
  • E-ISSN: 2352-1163



The case of the false letters attributed to George Washington—the first president of the United States—serves as a classical example of character attacks conducted with the help of “fake news”. The fake letters attributed to Washington were allegedly intercepted in 1776. The seven letters were addressed to Washington’s relatives and to a friend. This alleged Washington’s correspondence revealed his serious character flaws, indecisiveness, remorse, his sympathies toward Britain, as well as his wavering commitment to the revolution. These attacks attempted not only to discredit a major public figure and hurt him emotionally but also, feasibly, generate a public scandal and thus achieve or further certain political goals such as winning a military conflict. This article demonstrates whether and how this case fits into the general theory of character assassination and ultimately suggests that many forms, methods, and responses to character attacks remain consistent throughout the ages.


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