Guilt by association

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Guilt by association is the negative form of the association fallacy: the speaker attempts to portray one entity in a negative way by associating it with another entity which is already strongly disfavored by the audience.

Also known as: tarring with the same brush

A common form of this fallacy asserts that person X is friends with person Y who has attribute Q, therefore person X must have attribute Q as well. If someone (X) has a lot of friends, or even a lot of known contacts (not necessarily friends), it is not difficult to find one of those associates who has expressed unpopular views which may then be attributed to (and used to discredit) X.


This fallacy has been widely used by Americonservatives to attempt to discredit Barack Obama by associating him with various left-wing figures such as Bill Ayers [W] (see: controversy), Obama's former pastor Jeremiah Wright, Saul Alinsky [W][1], and others.