Martin Eisenstadt: Pundit or Fraud?

In an effort to garner attention for their short films, Mirvish and Gorlin leaked clips of their material on YouTube in spring 2007.

But there was a catch: At the end of each video, a tagline drew viewers to the Rudy Giuliani campaign site.

"This was at the time of the primaries when the Obama Girl was appearing," said Mirvish, "and you were getting more attention for funny political ads than anything else."

Mirvish said they chose Giuliani out of all the candidates because he had not used the Internet like others had and, simply put, his campaign's text font was the easiest to replicate.

"The Giuliani campaign didn't even have a logo," said Mirvish.

The Guiliani ads picked up traction in the summer of 2007, but no one could figure out who was behind them, according to Mirvish, who said the Giuliani campaign denied its involvement but never investigated them further.

By the time the primaries were over, Mirvish said he and Gorlin had to figure out a way to get more attention. The writers strike had stalled their hopes for a television series, and Giuliani was out of the presidential race.

And so, Eisenstadt was born. The name chosen because of its similarity to several of those who work in the Bush administration. The personality was conceived as a hybrid between Frasier Crane and Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert.

"All the neo-cons, especially from the Bush administration, always have very Jewish last names and very Christian first names," said Mirvish.

It also didn't hurt that there is an actual pundit with the name Martin Eisenstadt.

Eisenstadt's first name was changed slightly from its first inception, M. Thomas Eisenstadt, to throw off a suspicious reader whose blog baring the title "Eisenstadt is a hoax" had become a second search result for users who Googled "Eisenstadt."

"We had a couple of close calls," said Gorlin.

Mirvish estimates that it would have taken "about 20 seconds of searching to realize Eisenstadt was a hoax."

Anatomy of a Political Hoax

In addition to the Eisenstadt character, Gorlin and Mirvish also created the Harding Institute -- chosen because Warren Harding was one of the few presidents who didn't already have an organization in his name -- to be the think tank that employed the "pundit."

"We wanted to have this character like a lot of the pundits who would have 'macaca' moments where he'd say something really offensive and be captured on YouTube," said Mirvish.

"Then he'd have to do damage control: After all, that's the great art of Washington, how to apologize," he said.

One of the first videos to appear was a fake interview between Eisenstadt and an actor posing as an Iraqi television reporter, during which Eisenstadt suggested building a mosque inside a proposed casino in the Green Zone.

After the interview was leaked -- purposefully by Mirvish and Gorlin -- on YouTube, the Harding Institute issued an apology in a July press release, writing, "If anyone in the Muslim community was offended by those remarks, I sincerely apologize."

The apology, much to Mirvish's delight, was picked up by various news outlets.

But not everything that Eisenstadt blogged about was false.

When news of Palin's expensive wardrobe was leaked, Mirvish said that he did "legwork real journalists probably should have been doing" to research the money the campaign had been spending on makeup artists.

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