James Hired Swift Boat Firm Before Going Public

Last Friday I reported the same firm that oversaw the p.r. campaign of the Swift Boat veterans against John Kerry in 2004 was also advising Craig James in his public complaint to the Texas Tech administration about the disciplinary methods of Red Raiders football coach Mike Leach.

Merrie Spaeth Swift Boat Veterans Craig James Mike Leach

 (In hiring Swift Boat pr firm, ESPN’s James gave clue of fear over backlash)

Today I talked to the Founder of Spaeth Communications Merrie Spaeth about the company’s specific role with the James family.

Spaeth told me that she was initially contacted by Craig James before he went public with his complaints about Leach after a third party recommended the firm to the ESPN announcer.

I’m pretty sure his first call was on Dec. 19. He reached out to us,” Spaeth said.

Spaeth said that James wanted her company to, “help (James family) with the first burst of attention.”

Our first role with them was to think through what to say publicly. We advised him on the drafting of the family’s first statement that was distributed to reporters,” Spaeth said.

Spaeth also provided previously unreported details about the Adam James cellphone video. She said that James actually shot two videos during his separate confiments at Texas Tech practices and, “showed them to his parents.” Those videos were part of the impetus for Craig James taking the complaint against Leach public. Immediately after the second video was shot, Craig James contacted Spaeth to advise him.

Spaeth said the public release of the Adam James cellphone video was based on prior statements by Leach: “We came to a consensus that the video should be released to the public after Leach said some things that were at odds with adam’s story.

She did not say who had the initial idea to release the video to the media, only that it was a consensus-driven decision by her and the James family.

About the second video uploaded to Youtube and distributed to media outlets that showed Leach shouting at Adam James during a Tech practice, Spaeth said, “I have not seen it and don’t know about it.

Spaeth also clarified her role with James in the wake of his recent public announcement that he’s considering running for U.S. Senate.


She claimed James’ recent proclamation that he intended to explore the possibility of political career was, “news to me,” adding, “we’d be the last people to represent James. We’re already representing Michael Williams (for the possible Senate seat).

Spaeth was co-Chair of Williams’ most recent re-election campaign for the Texas Railroad Commission in 2008.

As for the future, Spaeth said she was still advising the James family but that “it’s been quiet for the past five to six days.” Spaeth said, “I don’t know where the litigation is going,” and that she wasn’t working on anything specific for James at the moment.

I asked Spaeth if the backlash from Tech fans and West Texans James has suffered will harm his political aspirations. She said, while noting her representation of Williams, “I’ll decline to speculate.” She additionally stated that she had not talked politics with the James once during her advisory capacity with the family.

By hiring one of the most aggressive p.r. firms in Spaeth before he ever went public about Leach, Craig James possibly shows just how grave his concern was over the potentially negative public reaction. Because of the nature of James’ complaints and Leach’s popularity, there was no way James would’ve ever won a p.r. battle. In hiring Spaeth,  it appears James had an inkling of that and also might show just how much he disliked Leach and the concerns he had for his son’s safety.

As an aside, Spaeth told me that the “third party” that recommended Spaeth’s firm to James was not in the Tech administration.

If there’s no settlement between the school and Leach and the matter goes to court, the James family could be dragged back into the public dispute, with more ugly consequences.

I would guess that if Leach doesn’t get a check for eight figures and attorney fees in a settlement with the school, the matter will go to court. So would think James would like to retain Spaeth in the future, but with the company’s potential conflict of interest in repping Williams in a future race for the U.S. Senate against James, I would think Spaeth won’t be in the picture much longer.

Good news for The Pirate as he wouldn’t have to worry about any more swabbies coming forwards.