- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 18, 2004

Fakery and reality

It’s not every day that a graphic artist finds his work cited as a major issue in a presidential campaign.

Richard Taylor isn’t exactly happy that John Kerry’s spokesman, David Wade, named him as an example in support of Mr. Kerry’s assertion that Republicans are the “most crooked … lying group I’ve ever seen.”

For the past six years, Mr. Taylor has been creating political parody images under the pseudonym “Registered.” For instance, he helped create the “Sore-Loserman” logo brandished by Republican activists during the 2000 Florida election recount, and during the Iraq war he created a counterfeit Iraqi dinar — featuring President Bush’s picture and images of surrendering Iraqi soldiers — that was shown during MSNBC’s coverage of the fall of Baghdad.

Several of Mr. Taylor’s other designs can be seen at www.registeredmedia.com.

A few days ago, when Mr. Kerry got caught calling Republicans “crooked,” the Kerry campaign told reporters the remark was in response to “a doctored photo, circulated on the Internet, placing the young Kerry right next to anti-Vietnam War activist Jane Fonda.”

Mr. Taylor says that photo — not to be confused with a genuine Associated Press photo showing Mr. Kerry seated behind Miss Fonda at a 1971 rally — was his work. He says he created the fake image (using computer software to merge separate photos) to dramatize the Kerry-Fonda collaboration in the so-called “Winter Soldier” project, which accused U.S. troops of widespread atrocities in Vietnam.

Says Mr. Taylor: “I wanted to illustrate what actually happened historically” of Miss Fonda and Mr. Kerry, then a leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, “speaking at the same rally, on the same day, on the same stage.”

Presented as a newspaper clipping with the headline, “Fonda Speaks to Vietnam At Anti-War Rally,” the photo looked real enough that experienced journalists had trouble spotting Mr. Taylor’s fake.

The altered photo was posted on the FreeRepublic.com Web site for less than two hours before Mr. Taylor deleted it. But that was just long enough for the image to be copied by Vietnam veterans who oppose Mr. Kerry’s Democratic presidential bid. The anti-Kerry vets mistook the photo as genuine and circulated it widely on the Internet.

Since then, the fake has been the subject of a New York Times article and other news coverage, and Mr. Taylor said he has been threatened with legal action for copyright violation.

A Michigan resident who has a day job in the financial industry, Mr. Taylor says contrary to the Kerry campaign’s suggestion, he has no official ties to the Republican Party.

“Karl Rove is not on my speed-dial,” he says.

Ripon it is

It was only a matter of time before we heard from the Ripon Society, given our numerous items this week on the actual birthplace of the Republican Party, which many believe to be Ripon, Wis.

Besides expanding on the GOP’s roots, the Ripon Society tells us it is making a bid to emerge as Washington’s pre-eminent right-thinking think tank on issues such as government spending, entitlement reform and national security.

That said, the organization’s long-time president, former Republican Rep. Bill Frenzel of Minnesota, has decided to retire. His successor is Richard Kessler, president of Kessler & Associates, a major Washington lobby firm.

Which makes sense. For the past 20 years, Mr. Kessler has championed the principles of responsible government, equal opportunity for all citizens and a strong national defense. He is joined by a new executive director, Elvis Oxley, son of Rep. Michael G. Oxley, Ohio Republican.

“This year marks the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Republican Party, which took place in Ripon, Wisconsin, and hence, our organization’s name,” Mr. Kessler said. “To celebrate this, the Ripon Society is planning numerous events and outreach efforts throughout the year.”

The events include the organization’s traditional breakfast and dinner speakers’ series, as well as novel opportunities for its members and supporters to generate interest and visibility as the November election grows closer.

“It is also our intent to broaden the influence of the Ripon Society beyond the Beltway this year with a strong grass-roots campaign,” Mr. Kessler said.

Finally, after a brief interruption, the organization has resumed publishing its quarterly magazine, the Ripon Forum. The newest issue defends the war in Iraq, the Republican-backed prescription-drug measure, Social Security reform and building a memorial for the victims of communism.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or [email protected]

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