: a defamatory falsehood published for political effect
Did You Know?
If you think dirty politics are new, think again. In the midst of the 1844 presidential campaign between James K. Polk and Henry Clay, a letter was published in a newspaper in Ithaca, New York, claiming that a reputable witness (one Baron von Roorback) had, while traveling in Tennessee, come across 43 slaves owned by Polk and branded with his initials. The letter caused an uproar that threatened to derail Polk's campaign until it was discovered that the whole thing was a hoax supposedly perpetrated by the opposing party. Baron von Roorback didn't even exist. The incident proved a political boomerang; Polk won the election and the name "roorback" became a byword for political dirty tricks.