Last Tuesday without any fanfare, the Barack Obama campaign announced Jennifer Joyce and Bob McCulloch, the top prosecutors in St. Louis city and St. Louis County, were joining something called an Obama truth squad.
They plan to respond immediately to any misleading advertisements and statements that might violate Missouri ethics laws.
"We want to keep this campaign focused on issues," Joyce told me. "Missourians don’t want to be distracted by these divisive character attacks."
The truth squad’s plan is to indentify false attacks and respond immediately with truthful information, Joyce and McCulloch say.
Truthful information like: Obama is a Christian who plans to cut taxes for anyone making under $250,000 a year.
The Obama campaign says prosecutors from the Kansas City area and some rural areas are also joining the truth squad, and Jefferson County Sheriff Glenn Boyer was also expected to be part of the team.
"Whether it is directly attributable to the campaign or one of the soft money operations," McCulloch told me, "if they’re not going to tell the truth, then somebody’s got to step up and say ‘wait a minute, that’s not true, this is the truth.’"
For reasons that are still not fully clear, prosecutors promising to tell the public the truth have sparked outrage among supporters of John McCain.
Three days later, I got a call from KMOX radio talk show host Mark Reardon. (I’ll paraphrase.)
That story you did last night is really getting a lot of attention, Reardon said.
I was off yesterday. What story? I asked.
The one about the Obama truth squad, he said.
Oh, that story I did Tuesday at 6, I responded.
Well, Rush Limbaugh just talked about it, and the blogoshpere has it, and it’s getting big. It’s really going to get big, Reardon said.
Reardon was correct.
More than 90,000 people from across the country watched my report on KMOV.com. Click here to watch the report
When I returned to the office on Saturday, I spoke with callers from New York to Florida who had heard about Obama’s truth squad and were outraged about it.
One caller said he was angry, because people were going to be "prosecuted" and "indicted" for stating their political views.
Another caller said Obama was planning to send police to the homes of elderly women because of their political statements.
A third caller said he wanted information about Obama’s "storm troopers."
Members of law enforcement never said anyone would be prosecuted, indicted or punished for saying anything, only that they were prepared to tell the public the truth.
By Saturday afternoon, outgoing Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt, a McCain supporter, was also outraged and accused Obama of "police state tactics" that would "intimidate people and kill free debate."
In a written statement on the governor’s official Web site, Blunt said the basis for his statement was prompted by "news reports."
"The only conceivable purpose of Messrs. McCulloch, Obama and the others is to frighten people away from expressing themselves, to chill open debate," Blunt said in the statement.
Prosecutor Jennifer Joyce said: "We’re here to respond to any character attacks, to set the record straight."
"Barack Obama needs to grow up," Blunt continued. "Usually, we ignore false and scurrilous accusations, because the purveyors have no credibility. When necessary, we refute them."
Isn’t that what Joyce and McCulloch say they plan to do?
If we follow Blunt’s argument, what does that say about his opinion of the John McCain Truth Squad and those responsible for it?
Yes, McCain has a truth squad, too.