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By Robert Farley January 13, 2011

Did the White House "brand" the Arizona memorial service with a logo and slogan?

The University of Arizona memorial service for the victims of the Tucson, Ariz. shootings was called "Together We Thrive." But Michelle Malkin claimed the slogan was cooked up by the White House

In an opinion piece about the Jan. 12, 2011, memorial event, Malkin, a conservative pundit, accused the White House of "branding" the memorial service with the slogan, complete with its own logo.

Malkin noted that all 13,000 people who attended the "Together We Thrive" event were given blue and white T-shirts with the logo.

"Can't the Democrat political stage managers give it a break just once?" Malkin wrote in her column.

The Drudge Report subsequently ran a headline atop its web page, "Political Theme, T-Shirts at Memorial?" It linked to an AP photo of "Together We Thrive" T-shirts draped over the back of chairs before the memorial service at McKale Memorial Center on the University of Arizona campus.

But officials at the University of Arizona said the White House had nothing to do with the name or the logo.

"The name of the event and the logo for the event were done entirely by the university," said Johnny Cruz, a spokesman for the University of Arizona. "Branding of the event was not done in consultation with the White House, or any elected officials or political organization."

The T-shirts were also the university's doing, Cruz said.

"That was the university's idea," he said. "We wanted to give people something to remember, to symbolize the community spirit."

The university bought the shirts without the use of taxpayer dollars, although he wasn't sure if the cost was borne by donations.

"Almost everything was done by the university," Cruz said, including selection of the location for the event and planning the agenda. Once the president accepted an invitation, he said, the White House helped coordinate some logistics, such as security, but that was the extent of the White House involvement.

And "Together We Thrive" was conceived by a University of Arizona student, he said.

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White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs said during his briefing that the university was responsible for logistics. "I think it’s important to understand we were invited to and accepted quite happily the invitation of the university," he said.

We should note that Malkin later added an update to her blog posting that stated, "As noted above, the University of Arizona announced the Together We Thrive event — and a few readers wrote in to say that the campus initiated the logo/campaign. Given U of A president Robert Shelton's embarrassing, thinly-veiled partisan cheerleading for Obama tonight, it may indeed be a 100 percent-campus-initiated campaign. Given the Obama White House's meticulous attention to stage prop details, however, I would say the odds of involvement by Axelrod/Plouffe & Co. are high."

But university spokesman Cruz said all of the "stage prop details," as Malkin called them, were entirely conceived by and arranged by the college.

The burden of proof is on Malkin and she has failed to prove any White House involvement. She may believe she sees the handiwork of the White House at play, but there's no evidence to back that up. Certainly not enough to justify her claim the White House used the shooting tragedy as an opportunity to orchestrate a "branded" political event. We rate Malkin's claim False.
 

Our Sources

White House website, Video: President Obama at the Memorial in Arizona, Jan. 12, 2011

Michelle Malkin blog, "Branding the Tucson massacre: 'Together We Thrive' in white and blue," by Michelle Malkin, Jan. 12, 2011

AP, Photo: Shirts sit on back before memorial service, Jan. 12, 2011

Interview with Johnny Cruz, a spokesman for University of Arizona, Jan. 13, 2011

Arizona Republic, "Giffords shooting: Barack Obama draws about 26,000," by Jaimee Rose and Catherine Reagor, Jan. 12, 2011

University of Arizona news, "President to Speak at UA," by Alexis Blue, Jan. 12, 2011

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