Skip to Content

ratfucking

“Ratfucking” is the art of carrying out dirty tricks and crafty maneuvers, usually in the name of winning an election.

The term dates back to the 1960s, when a young man named Donald Segretti was a student at the University of Southern California. Segretti described himself as a “fraternity rat” and got heavily involved in frathouse politics. He called his brand of take-no-prisoners politicking, which involved ballot stuffing, rumoro-mongering, and other pranks, “ratfucking.”

A few years after graduation, Segretti and a number of his friends from USC went to work for the Nixon administration. There, the story goes, they took their old attitude toward elections with them and continued to do the same kind of “ratfucking” on a bigger scale.

Ratfucking was originally a private word, used by Segretti within his small circle of confidants. It hit the mainstream after Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein wrote about it in All the President’s Men, their book about the Watergate affair.

In recent years, Trump associate and former Nixon operative Roger Stone is probably the person most commonly associated with ratfucking. As Mother Jones put it back in 2017:

Stone’s specialty is being a “ratfucker“ — a practitioner of dark arts avoided by most mainstream politicians and consultants. (Asked about the term in an interview with Politico, the ever-classy Stone instead smeared Sen. Ted Cruz: “I think he’s the one fucking rats.”)

In the same Politico interview, Stone also denounced the kind of tricks practiced by Segretti and his crowd. “What was the point? Harassment? That’s ratfucking,” Stone told Politico. “That comes out of the USC fraternity parlance. I didn’t go to USC.”

Nevertheless, Stone has been accused of spreading unfounded rumors about his opponents, dispensing conspiracy theories, and hacking into his opponents’ private information – ratfucking, in short.

The phrase ratfucking got a fresh and bizarre new twist in 2016 when Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas, used it to hit out at Donald Trump. At the time, Cruz and Trump were both running for the Republican nomination to the presidency. The National Enquirer ran an article claiming that Cruz had had extramarital affairs with at least five women. Cruz, asked about the allegations, responded that the story was a lie spread by Roger Stone. Cruz’s explanation of the whole kerfuffle included a surprise twist at the end:

“It is a story that quoted one source on the record: Roger Stone, Donald Trump’s chief political adviser,” Cruz told members of the media. “It is attacking my family. And what is striking is Donald’s henchman, Roger Stone, had for months been foreshadowing that this attack was coming. It’s not surprising that Donald’s tweet occurs the day before the attack comes out. And I would note that Mr. Stone is a man who has 50 years of dirty tricks behind him. He’s a man for whom a term was coined for copulating with a rodent. Well, let me be clear: Donald Trump may be a rat, but I have no desire to copulate with him.”

Political News

Here's the latest political news from Political Wire: