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“Swiftboating” refers to the use of dishonest or misleading tactics to attack or smear the reputation or character of a political opponent.

The term comes from the 2004 presidential campaign, when a group called the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth launched a series of television ads that attacked the military record of the Democratic nominee, Senator John Kerry.

It also led to a bestselling book that challenged Kerry’s military record and criticized his subsequent antiwar activities. Kerry himself had served for four months as a swift boat commander in Vietnam.


The ads, which were widely seen as dishonest and misleading, were credited with helping to undermine Kerry’s campaign and secure the election for President George W. Bush.

Since then, the term has been used to refer to any similar type of political attack that uses dishonest or misleading tactics to damage an opponent’s reputation.

Swiftboating typically involves making false or misleading claims about an opponent’s record or character, often using selectively edited or out-of-context information.

It can also involve attacking an opponent’s personal life or family, or using innuendo or insinuation to create a negative impression of the opponent.

These tactics are designed to create doubt or uncertainty about the opponent’s character or qualifications, and to make it difficult for voters to know whom to trust.

Swiftboating is often seen as a particularly insidious form of political attack because it is difficult to refute, and can be very effective at influencing public opinion.

In recent years, swiftboating has become a common tactic in political campaigns, with candidates and outside groups using it to attack their opponents. Some critics argue that swiftboating has become so widespread that it undermines the integrity of the political process, and makes it difficult for voters to make informed decisions.

It’s similar in meaning to mudslinging.

Examples of “swiftboating” in a sentence

  • The candidate’s campaign was accused of swiftboating their opponent by making false claims about their record.
  • The outside group was criticized for its swiftboating tactics, which included using selectively edited information to attack the candidate’s character.
  • Many voters were wary of the swiftboating that had become prevalent in the political campaign, and were unsure whom to trust.