There are several PR firms, lobbying groups who specialize in mud slinging, making wild allegations on behalf of their clients. Is there a word that describes such a person whose job is to make allegations against others?

  • 19
    It is sooooo tempting to say that he should be called an alligator! :-D
    – Simba
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 11:10
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    Instigator, paparazzi, gossip columnist, and of course, muckraker
    – Chloe
    Commented Nov 14, 2015 at 6:56

11 Answers 11


Try muckraker:

one who spreads real or alleged scandal about another (usually for political advantage)


A muckraker spreads scandals, usually for political advantage. Being a muckraker is considered sleazy.

Muck can mean feces or dirt, and a rake could spread it around. Similarly, a muckraker spreads around something that's dirty in another way: news of scandals, real or fake. Muckrakers are kind of like gossips, but they're more public. Many politicians are muckrakers when they talk trash about their opponents. Newspapers can be muckrakers too, if they spread word of scandals, especially ones that are hard to prove. Muckraking means about the same as mudslinging.


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    My observation is that, at least in modern usage, this is usually used for journalism and usually used in a positive sense (hence, for instance, ProPublica's MuckReads series). That doesn't seem to quite fit with the shadowy PR firm the OP has in mind.
    – Casey
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 16:39
  • I agree it's often applied to journalists, but not necessarily. Politicians or their hands can be muckrakers and filth-seekers as well. Seeking to dig up a scandal and use it against a person for some kind of gain or political clout is hardly a positive thing, though. And often the dirt is only alleged, not proven, which makes it even less positive. No wonder several dictionaries list mudslinger as a synonym to muckraker.
    – A.P.
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 20:40
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    Well, I'd say that in earlier usage the negative meaning was more pronounced, but, for instance, the Wikipedia article says "muckraking" and "investigative journalism" are the same thing, and that's how I've always understood it. The first definition listed by your source is "to search for and expose misconduct in public life."
    – Casey
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 20:49
  • "The first definition..." and the second says it's synonymous with a mudslinger, which is the way I understand it. The Free Dictionary accumulates definitions from various sources. Anyway, why can't a politician own a muckraker journalist for the specific purpose of digging up fake (or apparent, but hard to prove) dirt on their opponent and running with it?
    – A.P.
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 21:03
  • @Casey, I also disagree with Wikipedia on this point (and it doesn't provide a reference when it equates muckraking with investigative journalism), because many sources (incl. the Oxford American Dictionary) emphasize that a muckraker often runs with apparent or fake scandals, or does things in an underhanded or dishonest ways. That's not investigation, that's allegations.
    – A.P.
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 21:10

I'd suggest hatchet man, as defined below by "Dictionary.com Unabridged":

a writer or speaker who specializes in defamatory attacks, as on political candidates or public officials.


attack dog

a person noted for harsh, personal, and usually public verbal attacks against others [a political attack dog]

  • add the word "surrogate" to "attack dog" and I think you have it.
    – dwoz
    Commented Nov 14, 2015 at 17:29

I think they are called detractors:

  • someone who publicly criticizes someone or something.

McMillan Dictionary

or more colloquially mudslinger:

  • one who makes malicious charges and otherwise attempts to discredit an opponent, as in a political campaign.

The Free Dictionary

  • 3
    Those words don't describe the professional aspect of the question.
    – nitro2k01
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 9:40
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    @nitro2k01 - I doubt that anybody is officially hired as a mudslinger, they are probably lobbyists whose real job is to be detractors of other people for reasons related to politics, business, finance etc., but if you know what they are officially called, please post an answer.
    – user66974
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 9:54
  • 2
    mudslinger is definitely correct, see quotation.
    – Nemo
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 22:14

It makes me think to the famous principle "slander boldly, something always sticks" (from Francis Bacon "audacter calumniare, semper aliquid haeret").

Then, professional slanderer may fit.

"Slander" definition: defamation, calumny, malicious rumors, false and defamatory statement or report.

Another possibility is a drive-by-smear expert.

"Smear" definition: an untrue story about a person that is meant to hurt that person's reputation

Example: I think the parliamentary secretary should apologize to them and to this House for his drive-by smear.


You could consider using "smear campaigner". "Smear campaign" means:

A plan to discredit a public figure by making false accusations.

"Well, Senator Kerry had to respond to these scurrilous attacks on his character as a smear campaign."

[Oxford Online Dictionary]

"Negative campaigner" could also be considered as "negative campaigning" means:

Negative campaigning, also known more colloquially as "mudslinging", is trying to win an advantage by referring to negative aspects of an opponent rather than emphasizing one's own positive attributes or preferred policies.



calumniator? Traducer?

the english dictionary is rich in such terms.

have a browse or consider Roget


Spin-doctor is commonly used for a professional PR campaigner, but it doesn't necessarily imply he/she achieves the goals through mud-slinging.

I have heard "negative spin-doctor" used in some places to indicate that this spin-doctor uses less than savoury methods.


Gadfly fits if the purpose is more positive and social-reformist in nature.


As a reference to patent troll, you can always say PR troll or similar.


The authors of such campaigns are sometimes called a mud machine (see Wiktionary entry for quotations) by their detractors.

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