Car Wreck

Toyota Planned to Smear Critics

Congress is demanding answers from Toyota on whether the company led a smear campaign against critics of its safety record. The company recalled millions of its cars last year over complaints of stuck accelerator pedals, and documents provided to lawmakers describe an effort by the automaker to develop a PR campaign to discredit top witnesses at congressional hearings on the issue. Polls conducted by the White House pollster Joel Benenson were used to test attacks against Sean Kane, a safety consultant, and David Gilbert, a professor at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, and lawmakers want to determine whether the PR plan against them was ever put into action. In a statement, Toyota said that the two made "assertions" that had "created unwarranted consumer concern" and that its polling fell within the realm of normal public-opinion research.