Things just went from bad to terrible for the image of the Association of American Publishers. Rick Weiss in today's WPost spotlights the Association's hiring of "PR Pit Bull" Eric Dezenhall to help in their fight against patient advocates and members of Congress who are trying to require free access at academic journals to the results of federally financed research. Two bills and appropriations language mandating public access to government-funded research are slated to be introduced in the new Congress.

Dezenhall, who's clients include Exxon Mobil, apparently advised the Association to use some of the following language in framing their defense and the efforts of patient advocates:

Public access equals government censorship.
Government [is] seeking to nationalize science and be a publisher.

Here's the clincher, as Weiss, one of the best in business, writes at the Post:

Kevin McCauley, editor of the trade publication O'Dwyer's PR Report and the man who coined Dezenhall's "pit bull" appellation in a 2006 interview with Business Week, said the publishing association may live to regret the image of desperation that comes with an association with Dezenhall.

"The question I want to ask the publishing association is why a group that publishes scholarly journals feels the need to go this route," McCauley said.

His question might best be answered by the one-page statement the association released yesterday, which Schroeder confirmed was written internally and not by Dezenhall.

"Private sector non-profit and commercial publishers serve researchers and scientists by managing and funding the peer review process, disseminating authors' work, investing in technology and preserving millions of peer-reviewed articles as part of the permanent record of science," the statement read, in part.