As Sarah Palin has found, Facebook is a perfect way to get uncontested coverage. Your message goes straight to your base, and there’s no pesky East Coast liberal media elite to deal with.
Like Palin, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has a less-than-friendly relationship with traditional media. And so, like Palin, he’s getting around the press through social media.
“[Facebook] has provided another venue to get a message across and without the filter of traditional media,” Rumsfeld’s young chief of staff Keith Urbahn told Adweek via e-mail. “It also has potentially much broader reach beyond the Beltway journalist crowd.”
On Tuesday, Rumsfeld used Facebook to attack Bob Woodward, who that morning had used a traditional Beltway outlet—Foreign Policy—to make a detailed case that Rumsfeld’s recently released memoir, Known and Unknown, is “a brazen effort to shift blame on others . . . distort history, ignore the record or simply avoid discussing matters that cannot be airbrushed away.”
In response, Rumsfeld and Urbahn shifted blame, ignored the record and airbrushed matters away. Taking another page from Palin, who’s often found it better to attack the messenger rather than the message in her Facebook missives, Urbahn posted a statement on Rumsfeld’s Facebook page that didn’t address a single point Woodward had made. Instead, Urbahn attacked Woodward’s “brand of ‘journalism’” as “little more than self-serving accounts relying on anonymous or biased sources who often had little role in decision making.”
“We may send out a point-by-point rebuttal of Woodward’s critique later today, which I anticipate we’d also put on Facebook,” Urbahn told Adweek. (Given his thoughts on Woodward’s column—“if you could sum it up in a sentence it would be, ‘If Bob Woodward didn’t write about it, it must not have happened’”—it should be good.)
Rumsfeld also has a Twitter presence, Urbahn said, but Facebook is a better means for reaching out to the base. “Facebook posts tend to be read more by supporters—those who ‘like’ the page.”
As of this article’s publication, there are only 45 people who ‘like’ Rumsfeld’s Woodward retort, compared to the 7,821 who like Sarah Palin’s recent post, Iron Dogs Roarin, about her husband’s involvement in an Alaskan snowmobile race.
“Governor Palin has proven the success of messaging on Facebook, but hers is on a scale that we’re not going to replicate,” Urbahn wrote.
Update: Late Wednesday night, Urbahn followed up with (somewhat) more specific responses to Woodward’s accusations. The response addressed three of Woodward’s accusations, but Urbahn left four others alone: Instead, he used pull quotes from the media’s heavy hitters to attack Woodward’s journalism.