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Character Assassination and Reputation Management

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Character Assassination and Reputation Management

Theory and Applications


15 min read
8 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Stories of leaders ruined by character assassination can help you learn to protect and defend yourself.

Editorial Rating



  • Background
  • Concrete Examples
  • Engaging


Understanding character assassination and reputation destruction is a useful, defensive skill for anyone in business or, particularly, in politics – where character assassination is practically a varsity sport. Professors Eric B. Shiraev, Martijn Icks, Jennifer Keohane and Sergei Samoilenko offer illustrative, entertaining stories about historic leaders and famous people ruined by character assassination. Unsurprisingly, American leaders – including the Clintons and Trumps – feature prominently, but these stories can help you learn to protect and defend yourself.


Character assassination has always been part of human interaction. 

Character assassination means purposefully and publicly setting out to destroy the reputation, good name or credibility of a person, group or entity, with either true or false information. 

Attacks on the reputation of people or companies, including character assassination, occur across the worlds of politics, business, academic, sports and entertainment. Successful or notable people are usually the targets. In today’s social media environment, even members of the public may find themselves the victims of shaming, cyber-bullying and other reputational targeting. 

Throughout the ages, famous and powerful people have come under reputational attack. Egyptians essentially erased Pharaoh Akhenaten from history due to his religious beliefs.In 15th-century England, Henry VII unfairly vilified his predecessor, King Richard III, whom Shakespeare and various historians excoriated well after his death.

In the early 16th century, Martin Luther used the newly invented printing press to attack the integrity of the pope and the Catholic church. ...

About the Authors

Psychology professor Eric B. Shiraev is the co-author of Cross-Cultural Psychology: Critical Thinking and Contemporary Applications and of International Relations. Assistant professor Jennifer Keohane is the coordinator of Oral Communication at the University of Baltimore in Maryland. She also wrote Communist Rhetoric and Feminist Voices in Cold War America. Ancient history professor Martijn Icks is the author of The Crimes of Elagabalus: The Life and Legacy of Rome's Decadent Boy Emperor.  Communications professor Sergei A. Samoilenko is the co-author of the Handbook of Research on Deception, Fake News, and Misinformation Online.  

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