Character assassination is an intentional attempt to influence the portrayal or reputation of a particular person, whether living or a historical personage, in such a way as to cause others to develop an extremely negative, unethical or unappealing perception of him or her. By its nature, it involves deliberate exaggeration or manipulation of facts to present an untrue picture of the targeted person. For living individuals, this can cause the target to be rejected by his or her community, family, or members of his or her living or work environment. Such acts are typically very difficult to reverse or rectify, therefore the process is likened to a literal assassination of a human life. The damage sustained can be life-long and more, or for historical personages, last for many centuries after their death.
In practice, character assassination usually consists of the use of double speak, spreading of rumors, innuendo and deliberate misinformation on topics relating to one's morals, integrity, and reputation.
In politics, perhaps the most common form of character assassination is the spread of allegations that a candidate is a liar. In political circles the term "career assassination" is being increasingly used in place of character assassination. Other common themes may include allegations that the candidate is a bad or unpopular member of his family, has a bad relationship with his spouse or children, is disrespected by his former co-workers, or routinely engages in disturbing, socially unacceptable behavior, such as sexual deviancy.