In an attempt to deflect the heat from Congress and basically avoid shit hitting fan, Toyota planned a public relations campaign to disparage key witnesses who were testifying about the automaker’s faulty acceleration in its cars, the Washington Post reveals.
According to WaPo, President Obama’s chief pollster, Joel Benenson, questioned the integrity of witnesses including Sean Kane–a Massachusetts safety consultant, and David Gilbert–an auto technology professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondalevia–via poll.
In one of his letters to the House committee handling the Toyota tumult, Benenson, who utlized the services of NYC PR firm Robinson, Lerer & Montgomery, stated that “testing messages to rebut unfair or false assertions is a common and legitimate research practice and is no different than message testing our firm regularly does for Congressional candidates or Congressional campaign committees in response to critics or opponents.” Though no advertising campaign was actually executed, Congress was still peeved at the tactics and asked that Toyota hand over “all documents” pertaining to Benenson’s poll. You can read Toyota’s response to Professor Gilbert’s testimony here.
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