The futility of being Cheri Yecke

Yecke, Minnesota’s former odious education commissioner, is now campaigning to be odious education commissioner for the state of Florida. Her history in our fair state is now a bit of a stain on her reputations, so she hired a company called “reputationdefender” to sanitize the internet for her. This company googles up people who have said unkind things about their clients and sends out email threats to them, telling them to take it down. Their first target: gentle Wesley Elsberry. What’s particularly weird about this is that the post in question is simply a collection of news clippings with sources, with virtually no commentary at all.

Even weirder, if you google Cheri Yecke, Wesley’s post is #5; posts on Pharyngula occupy the #3 and #4 slots, and I guarantee you, I take much greater joy in stomping on yucky Yecke than Wes…but “reputationdefender” hasn’t hassled me at all.

It is amusing, though, that her efforts to whitewash the past and silence her critics are going to win her wider attention on the net. Look, here I am, once again adding to the links pointing to her creationist-friendly history!

You have got to take a look at “reputationdefender’s” claims to believe them. For the low, low price of $29.95, they promise to DESTROY any online entry you don’t like. That’s good to know—the limit of their efforts is that they’ll put $30 worth of time into expunging the web of undesirables. What is that, about 10 minutes of a lawyer’s time spent drafting a letter? $30 wasted on an exercise in futility?

Here’s what they promise to do. For about $15/month, they’ll regularly search online content for you, and send you a report. Then, at your request…

Next, we DESTROY. You can select any content from your report that you don’t like. This is where we go to work for you.

Our trained and expert online reputation advocates use an array of proprietary techniques developed in-house to correct and/or completely remove the selected unwanted content from the web. This is an arduous and labor-intensive task, but we take the job seriously so you can sleep better at night. We will always and only be in YOUR corner.

If we find an item of online content you don’t like, we’ll carry out our proprietary DESTROY process for you on that item for the one-time low fee of $29.95. This is where the rubber hits the road. It is an arduous and time-consuming process for our team of specialists, but we work hard so you can sleep better at night. You don’t pay this till you command us to DESTROY unwanted online content.

The “proprietary” and “arduous and labor-intensive task” seems to involve meekly asking the author to take down his article.


  1. Sonja says

    What do you expect PZ? For Yecke, being criticized by a self-proclaimed “godless liberal” is just the kind of internet buzz she wants. If she can get one of her right-wing friends to post a critique of her, then she can claim to be a “centrist”.

  2. Jonboy says

    Quote from Yecke,

    “When you’re a public figure, you have to try to manage fact from fiction,” Errrrrrrr, so try it one time lady.

  3. commissarjs says

    That’s a lovely piece of yellow journalism from the St. Petersburg times. I like how they used an example that is in no way similar to Ms. Yecke’s.

  4. Dave S. says

    The e-mail sent to Wes was signed “Dave S.”, the same sig I use when commenting on Scienceblogs.

    Let me assure you, that Dave S. is not me.

  5. says

    Ugh. I hate this type of misuse of the legal system. My brother was threatened with a lawsuit by a company called 22 Percent Off after he revealed that their product (a discount card) sucked.

    Of course, it backfired, as my brother knew that they had no case under defamation law. All it did was increase the amount of negative publicity for the company.

    Anyone interested can view my take of it here:

    Companies that do this need their asses handed to them on a plate.

  6. says

    My question is, on what grounds do these reputationdefender clowns try to argue their position? Certainly, if they want to allege libel, they’d have to prove in court that claims made about their client are knowingly false. And if they claim “emotional distress”, where truth is irrelevant, isn’t there a certain amount of wiggle room in terms of opinion journalism and criticism of public figures?

    My point is that it seems to me that $29.95 buys you a pretty, non-legally binding letter sent to someone’s house that, if the person has any sense, they will completely ignore, confident in the knowledge that:

    a)reputationdefender’s case would never hold up in court
    b)Anyone who goes that route instead of retaining an actual lawyer is unlikely to spend the far greater sums needed to take the case to court, especially with such a high chance of failure.

    In summary, Yecke and reputationdefender are foolish. Now, come and try to pry this comment from my cold, dead hands.

  7. Tulse says

    You don’t pay this till you command us to DESTROY unwanted online content.
    Nice that they don’t charge you until you actually request their service. (And note that nowhere do they guarantee results, despite their arduous and time-consuming efforts.)

    I would think that being gullible enough to hire reputationdefender would be a further disqualification for public office.

  8. mikmik says

    Haha, Fluffy, that’s funny. The “proprietary DESTROY process for you on that item for the one-time low fee of $29.95. This is where the rubber hits the road
    The venom: “At some point or another, most of us say things about ourselves or our friends and acquaintances we later regret. We’re all human, and we all do it!
    We are writing to you today because our client, Ronnie Segev, has told us that he would like the content about him on your website to be removed as it is outdated and disturbing to him. Would you be willing to remove or alter the content? It would mean so much to Mr. Segev, and to us

    Disturbing to him(her)?! That just what we want! Thanks for letting us know it worked!
    The irony. And they pay for it!

  9. Henry Clay says

    Damn! First we get a creationist museum, then we get a bunch of thugs trying to censor people? The Commonwealth at times suffers from a lack of intellectual wealth. Forgive us our sins!

    (address of company is in Louisville, KY. So am I….)

  10. says


    This sort of “remove unwanted content” thing always backfires. Take a look at people who attempt to use the “Message Recall” on email servers (like, MSExchange). You see it happen often: Email goes out, recall message goes out 30s later, and all it does is make a nice big flashy sign pointing at the original message.

    It’s roughly equivalent to muttering something to someone at the back of a lecture hall, and then slapping your hands over your mouth and yelling “OMIGOD I CAN’T BELIEVE I JUST SAID THAT” through your fingers.

    Kinda gets ya noticed.

    Then there’s also the sites out there that watch for such “disappearing content” and repost it from their own caches. Again, sometimes omission is the largest spotlight (or something).


  11. says

    none of the claims made by “reputationdefender” address a fundamental issue there: whether or not the claims are true. if they’re true and defendable, or opinion, they have nothing at all they can do to “destroy” this objectionable content. it’s, you know, free speech. i heard some country used to be into that, can’t remember which one though.

  12. says

    I love the allcaps ‘DESTROY’ stuff.

    So very… professional. Nothing sez ‘my legal representation knows what they’re doing’ quite like brochure material straight outta Wrestlemania.


    So very Daleks.

  13. raven says

    Truth is an absolute defense.

    SLAPP suits, loser pays court costs.

    I’ve been threatened several times by individuals and organizations for stuff I’ve posted on line. The best defense against slander and libel accusations is simple. If what you post is the truth, they don’t have a case. Clearly labeled opinion is also protected.

    One guy I called a lying scammer actually came close to suing me. Unfortunately for him, the feds indicted him for felony fraud first! LOL.

    Lately, I/we have been targeted by a well financed group of cyberstalkers for speaking out against some slime molds. No big deal. If past experience holds, they will end up getting picked up by the cops sooner or later. I know they are already being investigated for threats, intimidation, and cyberstalking.

  14. Chuck C says

    “When you’re a public figure, you have to try to manage fact from fiction,” she said.

    Yep: gotta suppress the facts so we can maintain the fiction!

  15. says

    Some relevant reading:

    Mr. Wilde had climbed into his high chair, and, after studying my face, picked up a dog’s-eared ledger and opened it.

    “Henry B. Matthews,” he read, “book-keeper with Whysot Whysot & Company, dealers in church ornaments. Called April 3rd. Reputation damaged on the racetrack. Known as a welcher. Reputation to be repaired by August 1st. Retainer, Five Dollars.” He turned the page and ran his fingerless knuckles down the closely written columns.

    “P. Greene Dusenberry, Minister of the Gospel, Fairbeach, New Jersey. Reputation damaged in the Bowery. To be repaired as soon as possible. Retainer, $100.”

    He coughed and added, “Called, April 6th.”

    “Then you are not in need of money, Mr. Wilde,” I inquired.

    “Listen” — he coughed again.

    “Mrs. C. Hamilton Chester, of Chester Park, New York City, called April 7th. Reputation damaged at Dieppe, France. To be repaired by October 1st. Retainer, $500.”

    “Note — C. Hamilton Chester, Captain U.S.S. Avalanche, ordered home from South Sea Squadron October 1st.”

    “Well,” I said, “the profession of a Repairer of Reputations is lucrative.”

    His colorless eyes sought mine. “I only wanted to demonstrate that I was correct. You said it was impossible to succeed as a Repairer of Reputations; that even if I did succeed in certain cases, it would cost me more than I would gain by it. To-day I have five hundred men in my employ, who are poorly paid, but who pursue the work with an enthusiasm which possibly may be born of fear. These men enter every shade and grade of society; some even are pillars of the most exclusive social temples; other are the prop and pride of the financial world; still others hold undisputed sway among the ‘Fancy and the Talent.’ I choose them at my leisure from those who reply to my advertisements. It is easy enough — they are all cowards. I could treble the number in twenty days if I wished. So, you see, those who have in their keeping the reputations of their fellow citizens, I have in my pay.”

    “They may turn on you,” I suggested.

    He rubbed his thumb over his cropped ears and adjusted the wax substitutes. “I think not,” he murmured, thoughtfully, “I seldom have to apply the whip, and then only once. Besides, they like their wages.”

    “How do you apply the whip?” I demanded.

    His face for a moment was awful to look upon. His eyes dwindled to a pair of green sparks.

    “I invite them to come and have a little chat with me,” he said, in a soft voice.

    I wonder if Yecke is yet aware that she has become the pawn of the King in Yellow, and those madmen who would seek to restore the Imperial Dynasty of America?

  16. John C. Randolph says

    Just a guess, but maybe these “reputation defender” people have read enough of your weblog to know that trying to push you around would do far more harm to their client than just leaving you alone.


  17. David Marjanović says

    I’d love to see the fine print that contains the definition of DESTROY™.

  18. David Marjanović says

    I’d love to see the fine print that contains the definition of DESTROY™.

  19. J-Dog says

    I’m tempted to shoot Reputation Defender an email warning them that Cheri may fatally ruin THEIR reputation. Their best recourse may be to fire her as a client.

  20. Obstreperous B says

    It seems from the way they phrase it that their “DESTROY” schtick is meant to bamboozle the computer-illiterate into assuming that their methods involve a team of hackers using their mystical interweb skillz to electronically erase offending webpages.

  21. says

    The state of Florida must be hard up for educational leadership. I know from personal experience that the former superintendent of my school district (Fresno Unified) is now attempting to fill the same role for a Florida school district—which is to say, he’s being touted as a distinguished educator of ethnicity when his true identity is that of a demagogue with no substance hired to demonize teachers.

    Here’s hoping he and Yecke are both rejected by thoughtful Floridians!

  22. CalGeorge says

    Maybe all the Yeckes of the world should go start their own sanitized Internet and leave the rest of us alone.

    All the people who spend their lives pretending they aren’t slimeballs could go there and enjoy each other’s lies.

  23. Kagehi says

    You hurt the cause of scienc.

    Yes, because silent compliance with the foolish, or even intentionally destructive, behavior of people intentionally trying to destroy something is *always* better than pointing out how many lies, distortions, foolish acts, and blind ignorance is peddled by such people. I am sure its much more civil, but I prefer to be *aware* of the people trying to put a knife in my back, not blissfully self deluded that they don’t exist, until I am suddenly bleeding to death, and then cofusedly looking around trying to figure out who did it. But heh, what ever works for you Osterman…

  24. says

    Suggestion: We each, all of us, chip in a couple of bucks a piece and hire Reputation Defenders to try to Defend PZ Myers Reputation.

    This will cause Reputation Defenders to DESTROY most of the creationist web sites that are out there.

    That’s worth 15 bucks, right? (Oh, wait, is that an additional 30 bucks a pop for actual destructive events?)

    OK, forget that, but this gives me another idea. First of all, yes, let’s spend the 15 dollars just to get the LIST of “targets.” That would be fun.

    But in the mean time, we can set up a Lot of web instances of reputation attacking stuff about Yecke. Then, whenever RD asks us to remove them, we do, and they bill her 30 bucks…

    OK, I’ve got about a half dozen targets on my site already….

  25. says

    I wonder if Yecke is yet aware that she has become the pawn of the King in Yellow, and those madmen who would seek to restore the Imperial Dynasty of America?

    Yes, that allusion crossed my mind when I saw the source domain.

  26. says

    Scott Hatfield’s comment was pertinent, but his link is missing the “html” extension and that’s why it doesn’t work. Here’s a link that does:


  27. says

    Pls, hold on to your champion of education reform long enough for Florida to wise up!

    The rationalists in my state have enough to deal with already … after all you don’t want all the irrational sectarians zealots to be waiting for you when you retire to our state :-P

    If Cheri moves to my state, I hope she becomes a neighbor of mine. We need someone to laugh at ;-)

    … I suppose it’s time for me to start bad mouthing her on my blog. I’d like nothing better than to have her file a suit against me … sigh …I don’t get much traffic :-(